Our Coaches

Alex Kim is a coach and the Director of Administration of Cogito Debate. Ms. Kim coaches the introductory and intermediate levels of Parliamentary Debate, with a specialty in Impromptu Speaking. She has been teaching at Cogito since 2019.
Kristina Rietveld is the Director of Debate of Cogito Debate and has been coaching our competitive club teams for years. Mrs. Rietveld holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies with a Minor in Public Relations from Cal State University Long Beach and a DRPA Mediation Certification, and is currently pursuing her Masters Degree at Cal State University Fullerton. Mrs. Rietveld started competing in speech and debate at the college level when she was 16 and fell in love with it immediately. She has won numerous awards competing at the state and national level in American Parliamentary Debate, British Parliamentary Debate, and International Public Debate (IPDA) as well as in Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking and Informative Speaking. As one of the founding coaches of Cogito, she is excited to see the program continue to grow!
Forrest Fulgenzi holds Bachelor Degrees in both Neuroscience and Economics from Pitzer College and has over eight years of coaching and direct debate experience, having won awards competing at both local and national levels of debate. He specializes in Policy Debate and Lincoln Douglas Debate and has a passion for research and education. Mr. Fulgenzi enjoys working with students and teaching them the importance of research as well as debate theory and strategy.
Alison Wilhelm holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a minor in Literary Journalism from University of California, Irvine. Ms. Wilhelm has been passionately teaching Cogito’s Junior Speakers and Debaters and public speaking courses, especially at the locations of Tustin Memorial Academy, Orchard Hills, and at the Great Park City of Irvine. Ms. Wilhelm believes that speech and debate skills are important and useful in life as they help students improve the way they communicate with one another.
Aby Flores completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and Neuroscience at the University of Florida, and is currently working towards her Doctorate Degree in Neuroscience at the University of California, Irvine. Ms. Flores has been with Cogito Debate since 2019, teaching public speaking courses and working on our Intramural Tournaments. Ms. Flores believes that being able to communicate effectively and confidently enriches all avenues of life, from personal to professional.
Brett Boelkens is a junior civil engineering student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and is the Director of Research and Publishing at Kankee Briefs. Throughout his time in a collegiate and high school debate, he has competed for 4+ years, with a focus on Lincoln-Douglas and Policy Debate. In his free time, Mr. Boelkens takes care of his three birds, two turtles, and his cat named Zombie. He believes that competitive debate helps foster public speaking skills, as well as the ability to research and think critically about arguments and evidence.
Ray Smith has been teaching Public Speaking, Spanish, and Drama since 2005, and was a high school speech and debate coach from 2011-2018. In his high school years, Mr. Smith competed in Policy Debate and Poetry/Prose. Mr. Smith believes that behind every Greta Thunberg and David Hogg and X Gonzalez there was a teacher who told them that their voice was more powerful than any armament.
Nizar Ajanovic
Nizar Ajanovic holds a BA from Pacific University, and his MFA from Chapman University. Mr. Ajanovic competed in Parliamentary Debate, Public Forum, and Extemporaneous Speaking throughout his 3 years of competitive forensics in high school. He received numerous first place awards in the Oregon Parliamentary Debate circuit, including the 2011 OSAA State Championship. At his time at Pacific University, Mr. Ajanovic debated at the collegiate level in BP and IPDA, and has over four years of judging experience. Outside of his passion for debate, he trains Jiu-Jitsu and enjoys camping and backpacking.
Ailene deVries
Ailene deVries holds a BFA from The Creative School in Toronto, and her MA in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ms. deVries has over 2 years of teaching experience and specializes in creative lecturing. In addition to teaching at Cogito, Ms. deVries is a visual artist and self-published author! She believes that learning speech and debate skills is essential to establishing self-expression and confidence in students.
Jesse Cote
Jesse Cote started debating in the fifth grade and began competing in a modified parliamentary debate style from sixth grade as a part of the Pegasus School team. In high school, M. Cote joined the Andover debate team, competing primarily in Parliamentary and Oregon style debate, alongside Lincoln Douglas and World’s School. They were also on the leadership board of the Phillips Academy student-led debate club and was elected Co-President during their senior year, where they hosted workshops, ran tournaments, gave lectures, and judged. M. Cote is currently working towards their masters in English and Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews while coaching debate classes at Cogito Debate.
Tori Nguyen
Tori Nguyen will be attending Chapman University this fall majoring in Business and minoring in Leadership studies. She has four years teaching students at UCI from high school through graduate level specializing in public speaking, communication, project management, and leadership skills. Her passion is to teach students to think creatively and develop their speech and debate skills for real-world experience. To help others achieve their success, Ms. Nguyen has her own podcast called Exploratori, which focuses on self-worth, self-reflection, and advocacy across various issues surrounding Generation Z. Building your child’s confidence is essential for their growth mindset, and the benefits of speech and debate skills provide endless opportunities.
Alex Fu
Alex Fu is a coach at Cogito Debate, and a student at University of California, Los Angeles. He has been competing in Speech and Debate for six years, and has three years of nonprofit debate education experience. He was a competitor in Policy Debate throughout high school, reaching the national Tournament of Champions as well as a placing on the Coaches' Poll of the top teams nationwide, as well as winning multiple awards at national circuit and local tournaments alike, including as a Semifinalist at the Jack Howe Memorial Tournament. Outside of debate, Alex is an avid gardener and animal enthusiast.
Hannah Braidman
Hannah Braidman has participated in public speaking programs since high school. She received her B.A. from UC Irvine in 2017, where she competed in
mock trial, was a TA for "The Art of Trial Law" and taught as a "Peer Educator" instructor at the Learning and Academic Resource Center. Hannah received her J.D. from Berkeley Law in 2021, after winning nationals at the ABA Mock Trial Competition in 2020. She now is the co-founder of a youth programs nonprofit and is eager to continue her love for teaching and public speaking with Cogito Debate.