“More than 250 people were nominated for the 2011 Peruvian Pride Award,” says Patricio Plazolles, program officer at OWU’s Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship. “From that group, 30 were selected by an honor committee to receive the award. The voting that was done was to gauge the amount of support each candidate could raise around the world.”
Plazolles’ 1,080 votes far outstripped others’ totals. The next highest vote-getter in his category was 509, and the second-highest in all categories was 660. Ohio Wesleyan was helpful in setting the record, but the majority of votes came from Plazolles’ alma mater, the Universidad Católica de Santa María. Approximately 8,000 votes were cast overall. “There might have been more if the voting process had been less cumbersome,” Plazolles says. “Most of the votes came from South America, with some from Europe and the United States.”
Rather than dwell on his honor, Plazolles chooses to focus on the others who shared the spotlight. “At a university conference in Lima, several of us were invited to speak. It was humbling to hear about the wonderful work these professionals are doing around the world. One is a top ophthalmologist. Another is a NASA engineer. Yet another is an entrepreneur in Ecuador who is giving back to the community that assisted her when she first went to that country with almost nothing. She didn’t even have enough money to bury her son, who died soon after she arrived in Ecuador. She feels a calling to help them in return.
“More than telling my story, I wanted to hear theirs,” Plazolles continues. “Listening to them helped me learn. After all, you don’t learn anything when you’re talking.”
Activities planned around the honor included visits to the Peruvian Congress, the Municipality of Lima, as well as the Government Palace. Honorees met with representatives of the Foreign Relations Ministry, and a few of them, including Plazolles, were interviewed on the biggest national radio station in the country. “It was a chance to be on the air in every single corner of Peru,” Plazolles says.
A highlight was a day spent with children. “Underprivileged kids were selected to participate because of their grades and conduct,” Plazolles explains. “Our job was to connect with them as part of a mentorship program, to encourage them, to exchange contact information, and to provide them with clothes and other necessities. And then we just had some fun at a big amusement park in a shopping mall.” Plazolles will remain in contact with his student through his sister, who lives in Peru, because the children have no computer access.
After having a day with his family who remain in Peru, it was on to a gala for the honorees, with more than 600 people in attendance, including Plazolles’ family and supporters from Spain and the United States. Even a classmate from college came to be part of Plazolles’ table. When it was time for his acceptance speech, Plazolles would not give his alone, asking that all honorees come to the podium with him.
“It was an incredible time and a lovely homecoming,” Plazolles says. “My only regret is that I was unable to attend a celebration for me in my hometown of Puerto San Juan de Marcona, and also to accept an invitation from a university (UNSA) in the city of Arequipa, where I was born. A change in the program events caused me to have to cancel my trip to these two cities.”
The most beautiful thing about the whole experience, Plazolles says, was “connecting with people I knew and people I didn’t, who are all inspired to make a difference. Some initiatives are already underway. I had been to Peru in June and July as well, participating in conferences at two universities, undergraduate and MBA programs, hospitals, NGOs, and youth groups, speaking on global leadership development and human development. I talked to more than 4,000 people while I was there — and students were inspired to develop some initiatives. They have begun to work on them, and that is very gratifying.”
Plazolles says he is grateful for the support he received from Ohio Wesleyan, “from President Jones and Chuck Stinemetz; the economics department, particularly Alice Simon; the student marketing group; the Office of Marketing and Communication; and Lisa Garvin. I have a great deal of affection for and loyalty to Ohio Wesleyan.
“I also want to express my deepest gratitude to my family, as well as Isabel Ayala, Dr. Hector Mayta, Roxana Figueroa, Erika Malaga, Dr. Giovanni Pelaez, citizens and friends of Marcona, Universidad Católica de Santa Maria, Universidad Nacional de San Agustin, Franklin University, and everyone who believed in me and supported me.”
His parents deserve the credit for what he has achieved, Plazolles says. “They are no longer here now,” he says, “but I’m sure that they know that everything they did was not in vain. I’m a product of all the people who have been part of my life.”
Congratulations, Patricio. You have brought honor to yourself, to your country, and to Ohio Wesleyan. We’re so proud of you!