“For the longest time, or at least all 23 years of my life, I’ve been waiting for someone to be that mentor, to be that person I needed to guide me and tell me what I needed to know as a woman of color, as an Asian-American woman,” Bishop said. “For me, last year, I told myself I can’t wait around anymore.”
For SMU law student Averie Bishop, being a change maker has been a way of life. A primary example is seen in how she took matters into her own hands in the pageant world after noticing a lack of “women who looked like her” winning pageant titles.
“For the longest time, or at least all 23 years of my life, I’ve been waiting for someone to be that mentor, to be that person I needed to guide me and tell me what I needed to know as a woman of color, as an Asian-American woman,” Bishop said. “For me, last year, I told myself, ‘I can’t wait around any more.’”
This spirit of taking action is evident in the creation of her nonprofit, The Tulong Foundation. According to Bishop, it all started when she decided she wanted to attend school in the Philippines.
“I don’t know why,” Bishop said. “I was, what, like 15. I wanted to experience what it was like to go to school in a third world country.”
Her time in the Philippines allowed Bishop to see what the school needed, specifically, the students in the school.
“So, after about four months of going to classes without air conditioning, without doors, without a roof, sitting on the concrete floor, sometimes not having lunch, and learning the narratives of some of these girls that wanted to go to school as well, I told my mom, ‘We have to do something!’” Bishop said.
Thus, in 2015, The Tulong Foundation was created – at first to provide the uniforms and transportation those students needed. Their avenues of aid have since expanded.
“We went back to the United States,” Bishop said. “We raised money and we were able to give our first year about 10 scholarships to girls. That’s since expanded. We construct water wells, we build community gardens, we give micro-loans to entrepreneurs that want to start small businesses. It’s impacted over 3,000 people.”
“So, after about four months of going to classes without air conditioning, without doors, without a roof, sitting on the concrete floor, sometimes not having lunch, and learning the narratives of some of these girls that wanted to go to school as well, I told my mom, ‘we have to do something!’”
As a result of her time in the Philippines and working within her foundation, Bishop has formed a bond with the girls in the Philippines, with whom she remains in contact with today.
“I actually have a letter buddy where we write letters back and forth,” Bishop said. “Sometimes it’s really hard to communicate because the letters get lost, but we’ve recently switched over to Facebook Messenger because we were like, ‘What are we doing, we live in the 21st century!’ Now we just communicate via text, really.”
As a result, Bishop gets to hear about the next steps and milestones in the girls’ lives.
“One of the girls we’ve given a scholarship to is going to nursing school after she graduates from high school, so we’re really proud of her,” Bishop said.
And the foundation just keeps growing, with plans to expand into Vietnam next year.
“My mom’s the mastermind of the whole thing because she can speak the language; She is the one who is from the province of Mindinao, and I’m kind of just the poster child,” Bishop laughed. “You know, marketing the foundation. But it’s been a lot of fun and we have impacted a lot of individuals.”
Along with the work at her foundation, Bishop now finds her attention divided between studying at the Dedman School of Law and her obligations as Miss Dallas 2020. Bishop has done over a dozen appearances as Miss Dallas–a title she won on September 8–and has more plans in the works. She recently had the opportunity to be recognized at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.
“They put me in their Upstander exhibition and they had the grand opening about a couple weeks ago,” Bishop said. “I got to go there and represent Miss Dallas and see my face in a hall where, like, MLK and Rosa Parks are, and it’s just like, this is not real. It was just really surreal.”
Through her charity work and pageant title, Bishop has clearly established herself as the role model she’s been waiting for.