INSTITUTE FACULTY

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Featured Speakers

Griffith 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.

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.

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.

Mike and Mary Winther
are former high school and college debaters that have been instrumental in the development of homeschool debate for the last 20 years. Mike and Mary coach the Modesto Debate team and have taught some of the most successful competitors in homeschool debate history.

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.

Lab Leaders

Joseph Abell

As a student, Joseph shattered records by becoming the only competitor in speech and debate history to win the National Championship in multiple leagues. Today, Joseph is the owner of Ace Peak: an online platform that teaches speech and debate to students all around the nation. He was the coach of Drew Magness, who won the NITOC Tournament Championship as well as the National Sweepstakes title in 2018. His students regularly win national accolades in all forms of debate and speech events. Joseph is a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, pursuing double majors in Business Management and Philosophy, with double minors in Entrepreneurship and Cognitive Science. Beyond coaching, Joseph loves cooking and writing poetry.

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.

Ellen Neumann
competed in High school speech and debate all four years of high school. She competed in over 8 different speech styles as well as Lincoln Douglas debate. Ellen qualified for the National Championship for both the NCFCA and STOA organizations. Her senior year, Ellen qualified placed in the top 5 speaker in 4 different speech events and was awarded the Best Overall Speaker award out of over 500 competitors. Outside of speech and debate, Ellen enjoys acting in community theater, playing soccer, and spending time with friends and family. She is currently working as a full-time Autism Technician while she pursues her degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant.

Luke McConnell
competed in speech and debate for four years. He ranked in the top five in two Speech Events during his Senior Year and won several tournaments in those events respectively. Luke is currently a Sophomore in college and taking a Paralegal Certification Program through Oakbrook College of Law in Northern California. His plans are to study Law after attending Colorado Christian University for three years beginning Fall of 2018. The most memorable LD experience was finishing 9th in the nation at NITOC 2017. Luke looks forward to what the Lord has planned for the future, and is definitely excited about all the fun experiences at NIHD 2018!

Emma Randall
has competed in Stoa Speech and Debate since 2012, and graduates this spring. She has qualified for NITOC six times -- in all speech categories as well as Team Policy and Parliamentary debate, but parliamentary is her favorite event. She has attended NIHD multiple times, and looks forward to participating as a leader there for the first time. Emma also enjoys photography, writing, and going on long walks.

Isabelle Clausen
competed in STOA for 3 years and loved her time in competitive forensics! She thoroughly enjoyed LD, Mars Hill Impromptu, Original Oratory, Persuasive, and Duo Interpretation. She won many speech titles and was ranked top 10 in the nation overall for both speech and debate during most of her 2017 senior year. At the end of the 2017 season, she was ranked top five in 2 speech events. Currently, she is attending Grand Canyon University and plans to graduate in 2021 with a degree in Finance and Economics. She plans to pursue a career in Financial Advisory as well as become a Christian public speaker.

Jonathan Griswold
a former Stoa competitor, feels blessed to competed in debate. The critical thinking and deep analysis gave him much joy. He loved rebuttals; they motivated him to present arguments with clarity and conciseness. Outside of the round, it was invigorating for him to brainstorm with other debaters. Jonathan is currently studying Biology at California Baptist University, and plans to be a high school math and science teacher.

Sam Wooddell
competed in Stoa through all four years of high school. He qualified for nationals each of those years in multiple speech events, in addition to qualifying in team policy and parliamentary debate. This past year, Sam finished as a top five overall competitor in Stoa, with ten first place finishes in speech, along with five first place finishes in team policy debate. Sam was blessed to become a national champion in team policy debate at NITOC 2018. In the fall, Sam will attend Hillsdale College to study Political Economy. Sam’s ultimate goal as a coach is to help students honor God through excellent debating.

Rachel Cochrane
has 5 years of forensics experience in STOA Homeschool Speech and Debate. She has competed in over 10 speech events and 2 debate events. She is currently working for the Helmsmen Institute, where she is writing coaching materials for the event Open Interpretation. During her senior year, Rachel finished in the top five overall for Open Interpretation, and finished in the top six in the nation for Lincoln Douglas Debate at NITOC 2018. She has received the Founder’s Award for both 2017 and 2018, and has attended NIHD for four years. She is thrilled to have this opportunity to serve the STOA community and help students develop their talents for God’s kingdom.

Josh Johnson is a Stoa graduate who has a passion to engage people in Christ-like
communication by loving God, loving people, sharing the Gospel, and impacting the world for Christ. He is a founding member of his cherished club, EPIC 2 , and currently resides in Southern California while studying Communication Studies at Biola University. Josh is driven by his passion to impact families and the Church through research and academia. He loves his family and friends, and he desires to serve the Lord in everything he does. When not involved with school and other work related tasks, you will find Josh nerding out about everything Marvel, Captain America, Black Panther, and enjoying time with his dog.

NIHD Staff & Volunteers


Cathy Wickham- Top Administrator & Assistant Tournament Director
Kelsey Winther- Administrative Assistant

NIHD Volunteers

Katja Randall- Schedule Architect & Tournament Director
Karen Salinas- Transportation Coordinator & Camp Nurse
Host Housing Coordinator- Anna Felis
Liz Kuhlmann- Tab Director
Ginger Vertican Worship Leader