INSTITUTE FACULTY

If you are interested in being on the NIHD staff team, please fill out the application located here.

Camp Instructors

Founder and President: Griffith William Vertican Esq.
Coach Griffith is the director of the National Institute for Homeschool Debate (with 170 participants it is the largest in the nation), he is also a licensed attorney and one of the most successful debate coaches in America. He himself won our nation's largest collegiate debate tournament the NPDA in 2007. Students who attended his camps have won every division of debate and students he personally coached took 1st place in TP Debate (Jeffrey Pistor) and 1st, 2nd, and 6th place in LD Debate at 2018 NITOC Championships. His students have also made it to the finals three of the last six years in Parliamentary Debate (winning twice in 2013 and 2017) and in 2015 won the overall tournament champion award.

Vice-President: Michael Tant

Michael is an IP (Individual Policy) National Champion and has competed in Academic School Speech and Debate for 8 years in both STOA, NCFCA, and numerous Collegiate leagues. Debate was always his favorite thing and he has competed in all events possible LD, TP, Parliamentary, Individual policy, IPDA, Team IPDA, Moot Court, Public Forum, and even Mock Congress. In both 2015 and 2016 he was ranked in the top 3 in Parliamentary debate in the nation going into NITOC and has won numerous tournaments in all kinds of debate events. He is also currently ranked in the top 5 teams in Parli in the nation for collegiate debate, and he is the 2017 IPDA Professional National Champion. Michael loves the Lord and he believes that Speech and Debate has equipped him to serve the purpose of furthering God's kingdom.

Isaiah McPeak
is the co-founder of Ethos Debate Publications LLC. He has consulted and coached Fortune 500 executives, politicians, authors, keynote speakers, and students since 2003. He has coached several first place national champion debaters in parliamentary, policy debate, value debate, moot court, and persuasive speaking. His book Upside Down Debate is a five-star book on Amazon.

Heather Neumann
is the founder of Lasting Impact where she has been blessed to coach National Champion Speakers, National Finalists, and beginning students. "Speech is a journey... there is no telling where the Lord will take you or the impact you can make." She is excited to bring for the first time her top-notch speech program to Southern California. Check out her website here.

Ellen Neumann
competed in speech and debate all four years of high school, and qualified for the national championship each year. Ellen was awarded 1st place at many tournaments on a qualifying, regional, and national level including 1st place Sweepstakes at the 2015 NCFCA National Championship. Ellen has since used her skills as a speaker to graduate college debt-free, coach students from around the nation through Lasting Impact!, and further the Lord's Kingdom. She is passionate about encouraging others to communicate for Christ authentically and creatively.

Special Speakers

Attorney Gabriel Waddell
Once a homeschool debater (way back in the dark ages), Gabe Waddell is a graduate of the Oak Brook College of Law, much of which he paid for with speech competition scholarships. Gabe is certified as a specialist in bankruptcy law by the State Bar of California, and currently practices law in Fresno, California, where he was one of the founding partners of the firm Fear Waddell, PC. He specializes in complex consumer bankruptcies and bankruptcy litigation, representing debtors and trustees. Gabe is rated a "Rising Star" by Super Lawyers. In addition to legal work, Gabe is active in humanitarian work locally and abroad, including serving on the Board of Directors for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Central Valley, and the Board of Directors of Remember, an organization devoted to caring for the widows and orphans of Christian martyrs across the globe. As a part of that work, Gabe regularly travels all over the world to minister to Christians in need. When he's not at the office or traveling, you might find Gabe searching for scenic views to photograph, reading a wide variety of literature, or cooking for friends.

Lab Leaders/Alumni speakers

Andrew Griswold
competed in STOA for six years, and qualified for NITOC his last four years of competition. He is a three-time Persuasive champion, and received top awards in many other events, including 6th place in Parli at NITOC 2019. For Andrew it's more than just competitive results. He highly enjoys the fellowship in the Stoa community and the sharpening of communication skills for God's glory. He is excited to interact with Stoa speech and debaters at NIHD

Esther Wickham
has been around the tournament campus since the age of 5. Early on she set a goal to compete in all events offered by Stoa. She has competed in all Platform, Interpretive, Limited Prep, Wild Card, and Debate events offered during her six years of competition. Esther is the 2018 National Champion in Dramatic Interpretation as well as a ranking First place seventeen times and three-time Founder’s Award. She is looking forward to serving at NIHD camp as a leader and investing in students just as leaders before have invested in her.

Ethan Blount
has competed in Speech & Debate across the US for the last five years & made it to nationals all five years. Two years ago he won the national Parliamentary Debate Speaker title and this last year he won the national title in Extemporaneous Speaking. He has also won over 100 awards in many other events ranging from Apologetics and Demonstration to Original Oratory and Impromptu – including over 30 First Place awards. In all of his different forms of speaking, he appreciates the power and utility of oratory and understands that it’s true purpose is for the Glorification of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jon Griswold
a former Stoa competitor, feels fortunate to have participated in debate. The critical thinking and deep analysis gave him much joy. He appreciates how debate exercises the mind. Outside of the round, it was invigorating for him to brainstorm with other debaters. He encourages students to use debate as an opportunity to draw closer to their parents. He also encourages students to think about how their arguments line up with the Bible. Jonathan is currently studying Biology at California Baptist University, and plans to become a high school teacher.

Kaitlin Lowe
was a competitor for two and a half years. Despite her limited time in Stoa, she quickly gained a passion for a wide variety of speeches and multiple forms of debate. As a novice Lincoln-Douglas debater, she held a 5-1 record at NITOC 2018 and went on to win Dramatic Interpretation at NITOC 2019, holding first place nationally in the event. She was blessed to break to multiple finals at every tournament this season, and she strives to further the skills she's learned from Stoa by teaching students to glorify God with every word of every speech.

Luke Argue
has competed in Stoa for 6 years. He first qualified to NITOC his freshman year in Lincoln Douglas. Since then, he qualified every year to Nationals achieving Founder's Awards in his Junior and Senior years. Luke competed at NITOC in all three forms of debate. This year in addition to finishing 7th in Team Policy and 16th in Parli, he came 2nd at Desert Gem and 1st at Concordia Challenge in LD. For the past few years, he's volunteered in his club to help teach other students. He’s incredibly excited to share at NIHD what he’s learned!

Noah Johnson
competed in STOA speech and debate for six years with a passion for Apologetics, Mars Hill Impromptu, and Lincoln Douglas debate. Griffith Vertican coached him in debate and helped him win several of the largest STOA Lincoln Douglas Debate tournaments in the country and ultimately finish second at NITOC 2018. Noah also finished first or second in two dozen tournaments, finished his STOA journey with his most treasured blessing from God: First in Apologetics at NITOC 2019. Noah strives, through speech and debate, to kindle in the hearts of others a true realization of the goodness and beauty of God, and he longs to share that same desire in others.

Rachel Cochrane
competed in Stoa Speech and Debate for five years in both speech and debate. She is a three-time Open Interpretation champion and has placed in finals for other events as well. She finished her senior year of high school as fifth in the nation for Open Interpretation and in the top six for Lincoln Douglas Debate at NITOC 2018. She is a Sophomore at Patrick Henry College where she had the opportunity to direct the play 12 Angry Jurors as well as compete in Mock Trial. She looks forward to serving in whatever way to bring God glory through speech and debate.

Sara Shipley
competed in Stoa speech and debate for six years, striving for excellence in every speech, every round, and every tournament. By the time she finished her sixth year, she'd been to tournaments in over seven states, learning invaluable lessons and skills. Sara specializes in Team Policy and Parliamentary Debate, as well as the limited prep speech events. She's passionate about using her skills for the advancement of God's kingdom and reinvesting into the community that invested so much into her. She can't wait to contribute to the learning and growth of the awesome students at NIHD!

Savanna Winchel
competed in STOA four years and affiliated with the STOA community for over a decade. She participated in various speech events including Open Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Persuasive, Apologetics, Impromptu, and Wildcard events, placing in finals several times. Currently, a sophomore at Concordia University Irvine, she completed an Honors Argumentation and Debate class being thoroughly trained in Extemporaneous speaking and earning the highest grade going undefeated in parliamentary debate, winning the final round. She has a deep love for learning and enthusiastic passion for teaching students to do great things for the glory of God through the art of public speaking.

Jascha Ely-Halliwill
has been a competitor for 3 years, and last season was blessed with a record-breaking year in LD. He finished the year with both the most wins in a single season and the most checks. He also has coached LD, for many competitors, some who placed at NITOC. He loves all forms of debate, not just as something he enjoys doing, but also teaching as well.

Lily McConnell
competed in STOA for 2 years after being at tournaments and club with her brother since she was very young. NITOC 2019 qualified in all seven of her events, and broke to Outrounds in 6. She finished NITOC 2019 with 4th in Mars Hill, 5th in HI, 10th in Parli , and received The Founders Award. Lily has won numerous trophies and consistently is in Finals at tournaments in Debate and Speech events. She was blessed to be named Tournament Champion at Central Valley Challenge 2019. Lily is super passionate and blessed to help students communicate to a lost world.

NIHD Staff

Administrator & Tournament Director: Cathy Wickham

Worship Leader: Ginger Vertican Carrier

Team Policy Case Editor: Eric Garcia
Coach Garcia has been the policy coach for Veritas since Fall of 2006. As a former collegiate coach, he also qualified multiple teams to the NPTE for both Irvine Valley College and Biola University. His personal competitive background includes twice qualifying for the NDT in 1992 and 1993. He also placed 13th at the California state championship tournament his senior year of high school LD.

Director of Social Media: Peri Dropping

Peri competed for four years in Stoa before her graduation in 2016. With experience in limited prep, interp, and platform speech events, she competed and qualified to NITOC three times, and broke to outrounds in a variety of events including Motivational speaking, Open interpretation, Persuasive speaking, Mars Hill, and Duo Interpretation. Since graduation, Peri moved to Helena, MT where she attends Carroll College. She double majors in Communication and Public Relations, with concentrations in marketing and digital media, and a minor in social media. She competes in British Parliamentary debate and continues her love of speech through Interpretive events, Extemporaneous speaking, and Impromptu. She has won numerous tournaments in all events. Peri's hobbies include travel, photography, graphic design, and being involved with Carroll's campus ministry!