Shawnee Mission South reacts to alumni’s Oscars best picture win for ‘Nomadland’

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — An Overland Park native is now a best picture winner at the Oscars.

Peter Spears produced the film ‘Nomadland.’ He is also an alumnus of Shawnee Mission South High School and was extremely active in their drama department. His teacher, Mark Swezey, isn’t surprised by his success, but is elated for his former student.

Kids who find the theatre department may also find a family. That’s how it was for Spears as a Shawnee Mission South Raider.

“Immediately got involved in theatre and just kept asking for more, and that’s kind of who he is,” Swezey said.

Spears left SMSHS decades ago, but Swezey says he left his mark. Watching him win best picture is one of the greatest joys a teacher can have.

“To see him as winning an award as prestigious as this is is something really special and something that kids can say hey, I may be able to do this,” Swezey said.

Kids like Morgan Lank, a senior who dreams of becoming an actress. She loves his work, especially his 2018 Oscar nominated film, ‘Call Me by Your Name.” Lank said it is a work of art, and inspiring.

“Truly, from being from Kansas it means that you can reach the stars. It doesn’t matter your background as long as you are working hard, and with the right guidance and teaching, you truly can reach your dreams,” Lank said.

Swezey said Spears stays connected to Shawnee Mission. He even wrote a letter when Swezey won an achievement award. He keeps the letter close to his heart.

“If I am a success in my career today I owe that in no small part to you, and your belief in me, and your advocacy for all those kids who came through those doors,” Swezey read.

“This career is not the easiest to break into, but seeing that he got to do it, and even if he might be in a different field of theatre it is possible as long as I keep striving for it,” Lank said.

Swezey said Spears donates to fundraisers for the drama department, and even has his own seat in their auditorium.

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