Creating change through politics, advocacy and art
As a Girl Scout since fifth grade, the president of Perryville’s Rotary Interact Club, a Student Council representative and an artist, Sonora Bishop advocates for conversations about politics, the environment, and the achievements of women and people of color to have a place in the consciousness of those around her.
The Perryville High School senior says being a Girl Scout has shaped the woman she is today through its empowerment-centered approach of learning useful life skills from women in diverse fields. One Girl Scout trip that particularly impacted Bishop was visiting Jefferson City, Mo., and observing a House of Representatives session, where she and her fellow troop members were introduced. While exploring the capitol, they also got to meet their Senate representative and observe a Senate session. Through the experience, she says she learned about the ways the government works, knowledge she now shares with her peers when she hears them discussing politics.
She is looking forward to casting her votes for what she believes in.
“Environmentalism is a big thing [that is important to me],” Bishop says. “I try to be as conscious as possible with all of the decisions that I make, and also now that I'm 18, I can vote, and so I am very excited to put my votes towards people that will really help in fixing our legal system and how we regulate corporations and how they affect the environment.”
Through the Rotary Interact Club, Bishop helps fill shoe boxes with toys and necessities for children through Operation Christmas Child each year. She also helps pick up trash along Perry County roadsides. In addition to her civic engagement, Bishop has worked at a local ice cream shop since 2019, which her mom now owns.
Bishop expresses her beliefs through art; she currently has a piece featured in the Southeast Missouri State University Annual High School Art Exhibition. To create the exhibited artwork, she poked 1,000 holes in a piece of paper with a sewing needle so it is bumpy on one side of the page, texture that forms an image and casts shadows when turned to the light. The holes in Bishop’s piece depict cars driving down an interstate, and she titled it “The Shadow of Our Existence: A commentary on the long-term effects of the automobile industrial complex.” She says she hopes it helps viewers reflect upon the hazardous effects our society’s “high regard” for automobiles has, often at the expense of people.
In the fall, Bishop plans to attend Lindenwood University to study art history and then pursue her Master’s degree in art conservation. She is motivated by her dream of bringing the artistic contributions of women and people of color to the forefront of the conversation in the art world.
“Being a woman, I don’t very often see the impact that women have had on what I’m passionate about — science and art and history,” Bishops says. “I’ve been learning a lot about it, and I’ve realized that I haven't been learning about it not because it’s not there, [but, rather,] just because we’re not taught those things. And I would really, really like to change that. The same thing with people of color. I’m half-Mexican — my grandpa, he is from Mexico — so that’s definitely been a big influence on my life, and it’s another one of those things: I’ve never heard anything about Hispanic people in history or in science. And I would like to change that, also.”
Bishop says her grandmother is very smart and driven and always there for her, often inviting her over for dinner; in these ways, she has a positive influence on her life. This relationship is one testament to why Bishop doesn’t believe the stigma that people from younger and older generations can’t connect.
“Young people and older people can get along, and they do get along, and I think it’s just important for all of us to constantly be evolving and not getting stuck in any kind of routine or certain thought or any kind of belief, because it’s always best to change,” she says. “Not just with the times, but to just become a better person for the people around you. And while I do think it’s harder as you get older, because many people do have routines and don’t experience other people outside of those routines that much, I think it’s really important for all of us to keep that as a priority.”
Bishop believes in the power of remaining a positive influence; it is key, she says, to the way she leads.
“Covid has really beat us all down, especially in school, and a lot of people just need positivity all the time, and I think I can really help my peers with that,” she says. “Optimism is a muscle. And the more you use it, the easier it gets, and it becomes muscle memory. And I truly believe that optimism is the answer to everything. I mean, it’s not the answer to everything — it’s OK to not be optimistic. But it definitely helps. It can really get you through — it can get you through tough times, it can change your outlook on life. I think optimism is the key.”
To her peers, Bishop, after a pause to consider what she wants them to know, gives a message of love.
“I love all of them. I don’t know. I do. I do,” she says. “I like seeing them all every day at school, and they make me happy. Mhmm.”