WHO IS AT THE HELM?

The Founders of the Helmsmen Institute are all champions in Stoa, with outstanding achievements in high school. The Coaching Staff is handpicked to include the most elite and grounded individuals in Stoa, and are selected based on success, integrity, and their continued involvement with speech and debate. Every Helmsmen representative is among the nationally recognized for speech and debate skills, knowledge, coaching, and competition.

We are especially blessed to have experts in the field coaching at our camp! Below each individuals' name, you'll see their position at camp. 

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DENISE SPRIMONT

Camp Director, Resident Director, and Speech and Debate Coach.

Denise Sprimont competed in both speech and debate for 7 years in Stoa and is now the debate coach of Voyagers. Throughout her high school career, Denise was blessed to compete in 9 speech events, Lincoln Douglas, and Parliamentary debate, and finished the season 10th in the nation in Lincoln Douglas. She went on to Concordia University Irvine, where she received a B.A. in History/Political Thought. Throughout college, she competed in Parliamentary Debate, where she won many tournaments, received first place Parliamentary Debate speaker numerous times, and finished her senior year ranked first in the nation. In addition, she has worked for the Borgen Project and the Institute for the Study of War. She was an honor student at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hertog Foundation, where she studied under Dr. Fred and Kim Kagan, Retired Lieutenant-General Dubik, General Petraeus, General Allen, General McChrystal, and several other high ranking military officials. She is now pursuing her master's degree at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago.

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DAVID VASQUEZ

Camp Co- Director, Coach, Resident Co-Director

David Vasquez competed in Stoa for seven years, where he competed primarily in Team Policy debate, Parliamentary debate, and Extemporaneous speaking. David won numerous 1st places in team policy debate, ranking within the top 5 nationally ranked Team Policy competitors in his Junior and Senior year of Stoa. In Extemp, David also advanced to finals multiple times in his senior year, including at the National Invitational Tournament of Champions. At the collegiate level, David competed in Parliamentary Debate. He won many tournaments, finished his senior year ranked first in the nation, was awarded the Carl Bovero Forensics Award of distinction, and was elected as the National Parliamentary Debate Association Student Representative. David graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Thought and a Minor in Law and Policy-making from Concordia University Irvine in 2020. Throughout his undergraduate career, David has worked actively with organizations and individuals such as The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and former Senator John Moorlach throughout his time at the Charles Koch Institute and The California Policy Center. Currently, David coaches Voyagers Speech and Debate in Stoa, is the Assistant Director of Debate at Concordia University Irvine, and is the founding Director of Forensics at Concordia University Chicago.

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AMANDA LAUGHON

Expert Lecturer in Debate

Amanda is the Director of Debate at Concordia University Irvine and has a cumulative 13 years of experience competing in and coaching debate. She graduated from Concordia University Irvine in 2015, and debated on CUI's debate team for four years, during which time they won the 2013 and 2015 NPDA National Championship awards. During her time as Director of Debate, Amanda has been awarded Coach of the Year by Washburn University and the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, and Assistant Coach of the Year by the NPTE. Under her direction as Director of Forensics, the Concordia debate team won it's third national title. In addition to coaching collegiate debate, Amanda was the assistant and head coach at the Apollos Debate Club from 2014-2015, during which time an Apollos team won the NITOC championship in Team Policy.

Joe Laughon

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JOSEPH LAUGHON

Expert Lecturer in Debate

Joe Laughon is the assistant director of debate at Concordia University, Irvine. Under his guidance as director of Lincoln Douglas Debate, Concordia won a national championship in LD. He has been competing or coaching debate for 14 years. He competed in parliamentary and Lincoln-Douglas debate on a collegiate level, first for Moorpark College, then Concordia University. At Moorpark he won the Bovero-Tabor Top Competitor Award in 2010. At Concordia he placed 10th at NPDA/NPTR and 7th place speaker. He competed in and coached Lincoln-Douglas debate in STOA/NCFCA. 

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DEETTE SPRIMONT

Education Director and Director of Parent Track

DeEtte Sprimont has been involved in Stoa since 2010, as a parent, coach, club camp director, and co-director of a debate tournament. Prior to homeschooling her three children, she was a public school teacher for 14 years, where she was also a director of student activities, a yearbook advisor, and a marathon running coach. As the West Coast Director of a mentoring program for three years, her work included customizing the mentoring programs and training manuals, recruiting and training the mentors for each school, and serving as a consultant once the programs were launched.

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SEAN OTTO

Coach, Resident Assistant, C.R.E.W. Leader at Debate Camp

Sean competed in both Team Policy and Parliamentary debate for 6 years, and he loved every second of it. He had the honor of becoming the 2019 Parliamentary Debate Champion. Sean was also very competitive in Team Policy, winning multiple tournaments, speaking awards, and finishing second in team rankings. Sean is pursuing a Business Management degree as a sophomore at Union University.

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TOM SPRIMONT

Expert in Tournament Directing and Technology

Mr. Sprimont’s career spans thirty-seven years with positions in Fortune 1000 companies such as Boeing, HP, General Motors, and Gould, and with SMBs as Haskell, Rogerson Aircraft, and CMD Technology. He held executive leadership roles with startups. He has consulted on large scale systems engineering projects for the Air Force, DARPA, the Navy, EDS, BDM, and Bechtel. His expertise includes building IT and software development organizations, the application of technology to business, strategic planning, and innovation through Six Sigma principles. Mr. Sprimont has taught classes at UCLA and delivered keynote speeches and technical papers on topics such as integrated databases, computer-aided engineering and design, and the application of technology. He has judged Stoa speech and debate events for six years, and is the Tournament Director for The Big Whig, and advises Stoa leadership on updating software requirements to include the evolving needs of competition.

CLARA HARNEY

Coach at Speech Camp

Clara was blessed to compete in Stoa for 4 years, beginning with her freshman year of high school. Throughout her final year in Stoa, Clara placed first at multiple debate tournaments and won two Tournament Championships. Clara concluded her senior year ranked second in the Nation overall on Speechranks, as well as second in Parliamentary Debate, Extemporaneous, and Apologetics. She ranked first in the Nation in Original Oratory and Dramatic Interpretation.  She is passionate about coaching students to improve their abilities and communicate at an advanced and effective level, for the glory of God. She is now a student with Patrick Henry College, planning to study journalism and compete in mock trial and moot court in the coming fall season.

JOSHUA JACKSON

Coach, Resident Assistant, C.R.E.W. Leader at Debate Camp

Joshua competed in STOA for 6 years. He placed 3rd in both Team Policy and Parliamentary debate for 2018 nationals and was blessed to be the 1st place Parliamentary Debate Champion at nationals 2019.  He excels in theory, strategies, and affirmative preparation. If you are looking for a coach to advance your strategies, affirmative strength, and speaking Joshua is the coach for you. Joshua is always seeking to pursue excellence without sacrificing people. Since graduating he has coached TP and Parliamentary debate. He is currently pursuing a Business Management degree at Union University.

KONRAD HACK

Coach at Speech and Debate Camp, Forensics Expert

Konrad Hack is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University Irvine. For 10 years, Konrad served as the founding director of Concordia's forensics team. During his tenure, the squad captured the 2013 and 2015 NPDA National tournament sweepstakes championship, and placed second in 2014, 2016, and 2017. A member of the Board of Elders at his church, Light of Christ Lutheran, Konrad is the proud father of two adorable boys.

JAMES VASQUEZ

Coach at Debate Camp

ZACHARY KOS

Coach at Speech and Debate Camp

Zachary Kos competed in Stoa speech and debate for four years. Some of his favorite events include Apologetics, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, and Parliamentary Debate. His senior year, Zak found success in limited-prep events with multiple wins in Apologetics and Mars Hill Impromptu, finishing top ten nationwide overall on Speechranks. Throughout his time in Stoa, he learned essential communication, critical thinking, and time management skills. With a passion for investing in the next generation of competitors, Zak aspires to help each competitor's unique and personal style shine in competition. An entrepreneur at heart, Zak has published various games including three card games and a board game. In the Fall of 2021, Zak will attend Dallas Baptist University pursuing a degree in Business as Mission. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” - 1 Corinthians 10:31

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JADON BUZZARD

Coach at Debate Camp

Jadon is the Head Coach, CEO, and co-owner of Ethos Debate. Jadon graduated Hillsdale College in 2021 with degrees in Economics and Philosophy. He is a decorated collegiate debater, placing in the top 16 at the National Forensic Association’s policy debate nationals his freshman year and going on to become the 2021 PKD National Champion in parliamentary debate his senior year. He’s won over 40 trophies during his college career. As a Stoa alumnus, Jadon was co-captain of his high school debate club, where he successfully competed in team policy, individual policy, and parliamentary debate, along with a myriad of speech events. He also placed third in the state for the Illinois American Legion Oratorical Contest as a high school senior. Jadon has experience in almost every debate format at some level or another. Jadon worked as the team manager of the Hillsdale College Debate Team. As manager, he frequently conducted strategies against opposing positions, gave lectures on debate theory, and assisted his teammates with cutting and compiling evidence. Jadon also worked as a head lecturer at several debate camps hosted by his former high school speech and debate club Chicago CHARGE, coaching several teams that made it to late out-rounds at NITOC. He frequently returns home to judge high school tournaments.

ELIZABETH FENGER

Coach at Speech Camp

Elizabeth has competed in all of the 12 Stoa speech events and 3 debate events.  Over the last five years, she won numerous trophies and medals.  Elizabeth is a very talented actress obtaining lead roles since age 10 in several high school plays.  Her love for interps is evident as she has used her skills over the past few years to coach peers as well as juniors in creating and improving their interpretive speeches.  She sees her greatest accomplishment as having won two first-place trophies in Apologetics at different tournaments.  As a well-rounded speaker, Elizabeth received a Founders Award and placed fourth for Open Interpretation at NITOC 2021. In the fall, Elizabeth will be attending Regent University pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing and hopes to be an entrepreneur to transform the world for Christ.

CALEB KREFT

Coach at Debate Camp

Caleb Kreft participated in speech & debate for four years, competing in Lincoln-Douglas and Parliamentary Debate and all categories of speech events. Throughout his years of competition, he has come to appreciate speech & debate as a powerful avenue to advance the kingdom of God and strongly believes that glorifying God during competition takes first priority over winning ballots. With the proper values laid down, however, he does believe in the value of hard work towards achieving competitive success. At NITOC 2021, his final tournament before graduating high school, he was blessed to earn the Founder's Award, advance to semi-finals in both debate formats, and be awarded 4th Place Tournament Champion. When he isn't thinking up a new resolutional analysis or cross-examination line, Caleb composes piano solos, thinks about obscure philosophical questions, and isn't quite too old to play make-believe with his three younger siblings.

NATHANAEL MORGAN

Coach at Debate Camp

Ever since joining Stoa in 2018, Nathanael knew he was destined to become a debater. Over the next three years, Nathanael enjoyed competing in four different forms of debate and multiple speech events. He graduated high school and exited Stoa with first place finishes in Expository speaking, Extemporaneous speaking, and Parliamentary debate, and placed 4th at NITOC in Parliamentary debate with his partner Caleb Kreft his senior year. He also competed in the online-only Paladin league and achieved two tournament wins in Socratic policy and Lincoln-Douglas debate respectively. Nathanael enjoys a variety of nerdy hobbies, including speed solving Rubik's cubes and related puzzles, computer programming, singing Byzantine chant, and playing chess. He loves to share his knowledge of debate theory and strategy with others and is always looking to improve his skills. Nathanael will be attending The College at St. Constantine in Houston, Texas in the fall of 2021.

ELISE SPRIMONT

Coach at Speech Camp

Elise has competed in Stoa since 2014, and has enjoyed the growth and challenges she experienced each year! During her time in the league she has developed and refined her skills and it has shown through her successes, trophies, and medals. A highlight of the 2020-2021 season for Elise was when she and her partner won 1st Place in Parliamentary Debate at a large tournament. At her final NITOC in 2021, she was awarded 16th place in Mars Hill Impromptu. She has thoroughly enjoyed the rigor of research, writing and revising cases and briefs, writing and cutting speeches, and practicing Parliamentary Debate, Lincoln Douglas debate, and all of the platform, interpretive and  limited preparation speeches, so she could better craft her skill as a speaker and a light for Christ. Elise has either competed in or coached nearly every event in Stoa. She enjoys leading, mentoring, and helping others to gain skills, understanding, and most importantly more knowledge of Christ and the Bible. As a coach, she enjoys seeing her younger students not only refine their skills but also become better ambassadors for Christ. As she coaches and mentors older students, she enjoys leading them to the deeper significance in their Stoa careers as they give all glory to God! Elise will be attending Concordia University Irvine and majoring in Entrepreneurial Ministry Leadership with a focus in Youth ministry. She hopes to become a youth pastor and work with today’s youth to make a better tomorrow for the world!