This 10-part series highlights the 2021 McGowan Courage Award nominees. Brought to you by the Mansfield Rotary Club.
ASHLAND – In the past, Crestview High School senior Nathan Spears was prone to stress, overthinking and second-guessing himself. Throughout his high school career, he’s grown into a hardworking student with strong academic integrity, making him a recipient of the 2021 McGowan Courage Award.
“It makes me feel good in a way, makes me feel like I did something that was worth it,” Spears said.
Spears has severe anxiety. He would often need to seek out a place for quiet to complete his work and gain control of his emotions. At times, he would spend hours a day working on a project. Mainly because he was overthinking every aspect of the assignment.
“I would just succumb to my stress... So much so that I felt like that was halting my progress more than anything in my learning and education,” Spears said.
Over time, Spears has developed into a deep thinker who often surprises his teachers and classmates with outside-the-box ideas and perspectives. He cares deeply for people. When people or animals are hurting, he knows it is wrong and it bothers him to his core.
Spears’ mother, Donna Spears, expressed how satisfied she is with Crestview High School for accepting her son and making him feel needed.
“Everybody was there,” she said. “That was something that was hard for him to understand. He didn't want to bug people. And we had to finally get through to him that that's their job, that's what they're there for and [he’s] not bugging them.”
Crestview High School art teacher and past drama advisor Emily Olewiler, one of the teachers who nominated Spears for the McGowan Courage Award, watched him grow in the past three years and calls it a privilege to have worked with him.
“He is never afraid to confront those who are taking advantage of others,” Olewiler wrote. “Nathan is the kind of person who will always offer help, even if he doesn't know how. In my opinion, Nathan is the embodiment of courage, he is never afraid to be true to himself or others.”
Spears participated in the drama club and played multiple roles, and each character he brought to life, according to Olewiler.
“For some, getting up on stage and not only acting but memorizing your lines would be too much to handle, this was not the case for Nathan,” Olewiler wrote. “In every role he was cast, he gave his everything. Nathan always offered help to those who asked, and always made sure we left practice on a positive note.”
As part of a small family, Spears said his parents are his biggest influences for never giving up on him and helping him through stressful times.
“I still think that even with all that bad in the world, there's still plenty of positivity and good that we can end up providing to others,” Spears said.
The 2021 McGowan Courage Awards are supported by these sponsors:
Park National Bank
North Central State College
Mansfield Art Center