Ivan Wheland’s bond with his father has gifted him with a more mature life perspective


Sophomore Ivan Wheland is purely a people person. The words funny and carefree, yet thoughtful and respectful come to mind when discussing Ivan, and, through his friendly soul and mature mindset, he strives to live up to these words every day. 

“I’m very thoughtful, and I put myself in other people’s shoes really well, even though it may not seem like that,” Ivan said. “I kind of come off as extroverted, but really I’d consider myself more [of] a wallflower because I’m super observant, and I can read people really well.”

These qualities, according to Ivan, stem from the close bond that he shares with his dad. From encouraging a love of reading and science to generating discussions surrounding broader, more worldly issues, Ivan’s dad has given him the gift of perspective. 

It’s more of a brother relationship than father-and-son [relationship].

“My dad taught me to be a very logical thinker, to be very straight forward, and [he] tries to keep me away from being biased towards things,” said Ivan, who considers his dad to be the biggest influence in his life. “Because of that, I understand how other people think. [I understand] how people become very opinionated, and then that changes their attitudes towards things.”

Their way of viewing the world isn’t the only thing that serves to strengthen their familial bond, though. Ivan states that his father, despite his influence over him, has always allowed him to be his own person, which is something that he remains openly grateful for. He cherishes his father and their time together and isn’t afraid to show it, either. 

“My dad and I are super similar, so we both really understand what [we’re] going through,” Ivan said. “It’s more of a brother relationship than father-and-son [relationship] because we talk to each other. He acts like he’s in middle school; he’s super childish. I think he’s the funniest person I know. I tell him I love him every night. We have deep talks about how we’re feeling and how we’re doing and what’s going on in our lives. We’re both super open with each other; [we’re] always aware that we have each other.”

Stemming from his own personal struggles with mental health, Ivan’s awareness regarding the issue has increased since entering high school. With his newfound knowledge of the struggles that so many students face, he hopes to lessen the stigma that continues to surround the subject. 

“[We always] hear about mental health and [the] stigma around it, but [people] don’t really understand [it],” Ivan said. “You think people are overreacting, or you think breathing can just change how you feel. Once you understand what they’re feeling from your [own] perspective, it completely shifts [your perspective].”

The importance of mental health and wellbeing is one that he feels isn’t currently being handled as well as it could be, and this also plays a role in his plan to start making changes. 

 “I realize [now] how truly important it is to focus on people’s mental health,” Ivan said. “My eyes have been opened to how people are disrespectful and how people don’t truly understand the effect that they have on others. I feel like it’s not even necessarily their fault that they don’t know what people are going through—because they haven’t felt it. I agree with how we’re all focusing on [mental health] and how it’s starting to become a popular topic, but I still don’t think that [it’s being] handled well.” 

With his witty personality and motivation to change the world, Ivan suspects that he might like to make his own positive impact on the lives of others by pursuing a career in education. 

“I think that I might want to be a teacher, so [that] I would be able to really understand and learn about how my students feel and grasp that,” Ivan said. “Then, [I could] shape my curriculum in a way where it would benefit the students the most.”

His past teachers, such as his eighth-grade science teacher Bill Alexander, are part of this inspiration. Along with his father, he credits Alexander with sparking his interest in science and making him an overall better person.  

“[Mr. Alexander] was super funny,” Ivan said. “[Through] his relationship with the students, you could tell he really cared. We’re at such an impressionable part of our lives where the rest of our lives could be dependent on somebody we look up to. I’m interested in being in that position and then being able to help kids benefit themselves in their own way.” 

The solution to bettering the mental health of America, though, is not so simple. The sole problem resides within the education system itself, Ivan says. 

“I personally think the schooling system and the way we do it now is pretty stupid,” Ivan said. “I believe in personalized learning, and I feel like if we implemented that, then society itself would exponentially skyrocket because people would solely learn what they are truly interested in and what they love, and [then] they would [be able to] specialize.” 

Eventually, though, what it all comes back to is Ivan’s compassionate heart. Even though his aspirations are to become a teacher and raise more awareness regarding the subject of mental health, Ivan’s ultimate solution is simple: kindness. 

“I feel like schooling, not the teachers, but just how everything is set up, is outdated,” Ivan said. “Social media has a role in it, but I don’t think social media itself would be able to fix [the problem]. I feel like [the problem] is the users. The only way we can truly combat mental health is if everybody as a whole just agrees to act better and be nicer.”