SAN JERÓNIMO, Peru — On a sunny November day, art teacher Ryan Sommers was arguing with five of his high school students.
The students were about to enter a high school drawing competition during the San Jerónimo district’s Intercultural Week celebration (Nov. 7–11, 2016), but when they saw the 50 other competitors from all around the district, they wanted to back out.
“They said we could never win,” said Sommers, who was in Peru with Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) to teach art at PROMESA, a private Mennonite school of 300 students. Many of the other students in the art competition represented schools of thousands.
Sommers insisted they enter. And when the winners were announced, PROMESA nearly swept the podium: student Julio Cesar Pacheco Atayupanqui came in first, and Renzo Joaquín Choque Vidarte placed third.
In order to win, Atayupanqui and Vidarte had to create original drawings on the spot in under two hours. The drawings were to illustrate some part of San Jerónimo culture.
Atayupanqui’s winning drawing included a historic church, Iglesia de San Jerónimo, located in the main plaza, along with figures in traditional Peruvian costume.
He won 300 soles (about 90 dollars), and his drawing will hang in a local government building.
Sommers and his wife, Kristie Sommers, both 25, spent a year as missionaries in Peru, teaching art and English at PROMESA. They returned to Mount Joy, Pa., in December 2016, but memories of Peru, such as the art competition, remain.
“It was a chance to teach the students that it isn’t about having a large school, or a lot of funding,” said Sommers.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he added.