CCA student created speaker series for his peers focused on mental health

State of Mind founder Aedan Henckels with guest speaker Bryce Wettstein, a SDA grad and Olympic skateboarder.
(Copyright Aedan Henckels)

Canyon Crest Academy sophomore Aedan Henckels is committed to mental health education on campus, this year starting the State of Mind speaker series for his peers. Recently he brought in his third guest speaker of the year, Olympic skateboarder Bryce Wettstein. Wettstein, a San Dieguito Academy grad, spoke about how she faced down the pressure, stress and highly competitive environment at the 2022 Tokyo Olympics with positivity and joy.

After her speech, Wettstein did a meet and greet and all students who attended got a complimentary stress ball.

“The kids that came definitely enjoyed it,” said Aedan. “My goal is to always have relevant speakers who both inform and inspire teens and encourage more open conversations about mental health struggles.”

Aedan first started focusing on this issue as freshman class co-president. A student leader on campus, he was recently elected president of the junior class in the fall and he is also president of CCA’s Hispanic Latinx Student Union.

As part of his role as co-president, he surveyed students on the biggest issue they faced and mental health came out on top.

“Teens are dealing with mental health challenges more than ever which was intensified by the pandemic. Suicide rates have increased along with rates of anxiety and depression,” Aedan said. “Especially at CCA, which is the number two public school in California and is notorious for the stress and pressure faced by students, conversations about mental health and addressing mental struggles needs to be talked about more openly and more often.”

“Obviously I can’t fix it but I can do my best to improve people’s lives,” he said.

For the speaker series, he worked his personal connections to book Steve Elias, a local Navy SEAL, and Dr. Robert Patel, an ER doctor at Scripps Memorial Hospital. Both Elias and Patel shared their personal stories with students at CCA and offered practical advice on managing mental health challenges. Aedan hopes his series not only gets people talking but also provides teens with valuable tools to learn how to cope with stress and anxiety.

On his own, Aedan sought sponsorships to bring the speakers to the school, including the local Jersey Mike’s and real estate broker Kurt Wannebo. He also got help for the series from Kimberly McSherry, president of the CCA Foundation and support from Assistant Principal Garry Thornton.

With Wettstein, Aedan also recorded his first video podcast. He plans to work all summer on a strong digital platform to push the State of Mind series out districtwide to reach more students.

“I’m excited to be able to use my platform and to try to make more of an impact,” he said.

Guest speaker Bryce Wettstein with series founder Aedan Henckels.
(Copyright Aedan Henckels)