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.
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.
Emily Huang

Emily Huang is pursuing a Communications major while actively teaching debate courses at Cogito Debate. Ms. Huang started debating in elementary school and continued throughout high school. She was a semi-finalist for NSDA Taiwan in 2018, and also competed in NSDA Korea representing Taiwan. With vast NSDA judge experience, Ms. Huang has been very involved in Cogito tournaments.

Andrew Juliano

Andrew Juliano completed his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and education studies from the University of California, Irvine in 2019. His training in philosophy has fundamentally altered the way he writes, speaks, and thinks, impressing upon him the value of logically valid, structured arguments and clear communication. He speaks fluent Spanish and is conversational in Mandarin. In his free time he loves to surf, do yoga, read fantasy, and meditate. He has spent three years tutoring children at various education centers in Orange County and has had his own classroom for two years now. He taught elementary school (3rd-5th grade) English and History in the 2020-22 school year and taught ESL in 2021-22. He believes passionately that meaningful connection with young people makes us all better. He wants to help children not only to be engaged, but to fall in love with learning and with their own innate goodness.

Dominique Woods

Dominique Woods currently holds a BA in Linguistics from Cal State Fullerton and is a former speech and debate competitor for Orange Coast College. Mr. Woods has several first-place state and national titles in poetry, dramatic interpretation, programmed oral interpretation, duo interpretation, and reader’s theatre from 2010 to 2011. He’s also been awarded Best Actor in the ARTa (American Reader’s Theatre association) competition of Los Angeles in 2010 & 2011. As a former volunteer coach for various speech and debate programs from 2010 to 2017 and with his experience teaching an array of classes ranging from public speaking to creative writing, Mr. Woods aims to make lessons both fun and meaningful while developing the student’s confidence in effective communication.

Gahl Liberzon

Gahl Liberzon is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a dual degree in Creative Writing and Literature and Secondary Education. A licensed English Language Arts teacher for grades 6-12, Mr. Liberzon has over 10 years of experience teaching Literary Analysis, Composition, Creative Writing, and English as a Second Language to students of all ages and skill levels. A five-time Hopwood award-winning poet and three-time coach of the Ann Arbor Youth National Poetry slam team, Mr.
Liberzon has developed a deep belief in the power of young people’s voices and looks forward to helping young learners at Cogito to develop their writing and speaking skills, and through that their confidence to engage meaningfully with the world around them as intellectuals.

Jeffrey Lin

Jeffrey Lin is currently in his 3rd year at UCI working towards a bachelor’s in Political Science. He has been debating since middle school and joined a junior program for
Parliamentary Debate. Throughout his high school career, he has attended multiple local, invitational, and state tournaments competing in Parliamentary Debate and Extemporaneous Speech. He also had a quick stint coaching in the UCI debate club and has worked with people of all ages, from middle schoolers to college students. Jeffrey believes that before all else, a person must be confident about their speaking skills, so he aims to cultivate these skills in his students. Outside of debate, Jeffrey loves listening to podcasts and music.


Kaiden Leard is a high school and college debate competitor. Kaiden has over eight years of debate experience – specifically Lincon Douglas and Parliamentary debate. Awards include finals in both Lincoln Douglas and Parliamentary debate – including ‘best speaker awards. Kaiden is currently a Concordia University Irvine student studying Business Administration with a focus on Marketing. Kaiden has a passion for teaching kids and debate. Kaiden is excited to teach Cogito students.

Varshini Srikanthan

Varshini Srikanthan is a coach at Cogito Debate, as well as an Economics and Philosophy student at the University of California, Irvine. She participated in speech and debate for all four years of high school, competing in Original Oratory, Impromptu, and Extemporaneous Speaking events. Throughout her time, she won numerous awards, captained her team, and co-founded the Extemporaneous branch. Now, she is the President of UCI’s Mock Trial team, and has received many individual and team awards during her three years on the program. Due to her passion for law and trial advocacy, she is also teaching assistant for a class called “The Art of Trial Law” at UCI. Ms. Srikanthan loves public speaking and teaching, and is very excited to teach with Cogito!

Anthony Antonyan

Anthony Antonyan is currently pursing an B.A. in English from UC Irvine, where he is competing as an attorney and witness in the school’s Mock Trial Club and serving as its Vice President. Performing for several years, he has earned three witness awards so far—including an All-National Witness Award, the second highest achievement a witness can receive from the American Mock Trial Association. Mr. Antoyan has captained several UCI Mock Trial teams to victory and has travelled throughout the nation, competing against some of the most talented programs in the country. Additionally, due to his passion for the legal field, he has been a teaching assistant for the UCI course— “The Art of Trial Law.” Now, he is excited and eager to share his public speaking and Mock Trial experience to Cogito students.