Jen Gonda

Curriculum Coordinator - Lincoln-Douglas

Jen Gonda coached Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum debate at Cardinal Mooney High School for seven years. In 2010, she restarted the LD debate program, which had been inactive for three years, and coached students to break rounds at the George Mason Patriot Games and the Ohio state tournament. The Cardinal Mooney debate team won the district debate sweepstakes five of the seven years she coached. When she is not coaching, Jen is a behavior analyst who provides professional development for teachers working with students with disabilities. She is also currently completing her doctoral dissertation. Jen believes that debate lays the foundation for students to become critical consumers of information and to question the status quo in pursuit of the greater good.

James Lewis

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

James Lewis was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. Lewis competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate for University School. He has taught at US since 2010 and was the US LD coach from 2010 to 2019. In his nine years as LD coach, Mr. Lewis took a debater to the final round of the OSDA state tournament seven years in a row, winning four state championships. He also coached LD debaters to top-five finishes at the NSDA national tournament in 3 of the last 4 years. In 2019, Mr. Lewis became the head coach of the US Speech and Debate team. In 2016, Mr. Lewis co-founded Classic Debate Camp with Mr. Paik. After a year away from CDC, he is excited to return to the CDC LD Staff.

Shreyaa Nagajothi

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Shreyaa Nagajothi debated for 4 years in Lincoln-Douglas debate for Jackson High School. She was the debate captain her senior year. Shreyaa qualified for the OSDA state tournament 4 times, placing 7th in 2018. She also qualified for the NSDA national tournament twice. As a junior, she advanced to elimination rounds and made it to round 8. As a senior, Shreyaa made it all the way to round 16, the finals, and won 2nd place at the national tournament. She also won 5th place out of 250 debaters in the LD Speaker Awards. Shreyaa won the Chancellor’s scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh, where she will study neuroscience on a pre-med track. Outside of debate, she enjoys tennis, piano, and hiking. Shreyaa is extremely excited to teach debaters the importance of spontaneous argument generation and persuasive speaking.

Grace Johannes

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Grace Johannes debated for Liberty High School near Kansas City, Missouri, for four years. She competed in Public Forum debate for three years before switching to Lincoln-Douglas debate during her senior year. Grace made the most of her one year in LD, winning 2nd place at the 2019 Missouri state tournament and 1st place at the 2019 NSDA national tournament! Grace also participated in Model United Nations, women’s issues and other political advocacy clubs at her high school. She is attending Trinity University in San Antonio where she is majoring in international relations. Grace was the lead author of the first CDC LD brief, which was on the March-April 2020 topic. She is excited to pass on her strong research skills to other debaters.

Kennedy Hughes

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Kennedy Hughes competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate for Vermilion High School in Vermilion, Ohio, for three years. She qualified to both the Ohio state tournament and the NSDA national tournament twice. At nationals, Kennedy competed in World Schools Debate. During her junior year, her WSD team finished as octa-finalists. In her senior year, Kennedy was the captain of the WSD team, Northcoast Yellow, that went on to win the national championship. Outside of debate, Kennedy enjoys singing, painting, and political advocacy. She is currently

attending Miami University, majoring in political science and philosophy, and she can't wait to introduce CDC campers to the wonderful Miami campus! Check out Kennedy's testimony.

Maya Arora

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Maya Arora has competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate for Cape Fear Academy in North Carolina for four years. Maya is a two-time national champion in Lincoln-Douglas at the NCFL Grand National Tournament. She won that title in both her freshman year (2017) and her junior year (2019). Maya has also qualified for the NSDA national tournament three times and has accumulated four career bids to the Tournament of Champions. Maya served as her school's debate team captain for 4 years, growing the team from 0 to 9 LD debaters over four years. Outside of debate, she enjoys following politics, playing tennis, and watching Netflix. Maya will be graduating in 2020 and is excited to join the staff of CDC and share her passion for traditional debate with young debaters. She is eager to help them to enrich their knowledge, improve their public speaking, and enhance their confidence as individuals.

Nick Protasiewicz

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Nick Protasiewicz competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate for University School for four years. He served as captain of the LD team as well as overall head captain of the US Speech and Debate Team his senior year. Nick was the first LD debater in Ohio history to win the state championship in back to back years, 2018 and 2019. Nick is attending The Ohio State University and is studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). Outside of debate, he enjoys researching topics such as unemployment insurance in the U.S. and plays jazz piano.

Nick Protasiewicz wins OH LD championship - again!
OSDA 2019 LD Awards

Nick believes strongly in the value of traditional debate and persuasive speaking. He has been a part of CDC since its very first year (2016). He attended as a camper for three years and joined the CDC staff last year.

Natalie Schaller

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Natalie Schaller debated for Liberty High School near Kansas City, Missouri, for four years. She competed in Policy for one year and Lincoln-Douglas for three years. Her greatest debate achievement was winning the 2017 NSDA national championship in Lincoln-Douglas Debate - but she treasures her relationships with her teammates and coaches more than anything else. Currently, Natalie is entering her final year at McGill University, where she studies Political Science, Middle East Studies, and Russian Language. She has also been very involved in Model United Nations at McGill. This summer, she is excited to return to CDC, to reunite with great friends, and to watch young debaters grow!

Isaiah Paik

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Isaiah Paik competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate for four years, qualifying to states three times and nationals twice. In his senior year, he won first place at Perry, Glen Oak, Sylvania, and Bethel Park. He also won the City Club of Cleveland High School Debate Championship. Isaiah served as captain of his LD Team and helped US to qualify 6 LD debaters to states. At the NSDA Northcoast District Tournament, Isaiah was named Student of the Year. Outside of debate, Isaiah enjoys acting and playing violin. He is attending Brown University where he is concentrating in sociology. Isaiah enjoys imparting his unique debate wisdom upon the next generation of classic debaters.

Nehal Chigurupati

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Nehal Chigurupati competed for four years in Lincoln-Douglas debate for University School in Ohio, serving as captain his senior year. As a junior, Nehal won 2nd place at the 2019 NSDA national tournament. Then, as a senior, he won 5th place at nationals. Also in his senior year, Nehal co-championed the University of Kentucky Season Opener and also reached elimination rounds at Yale and Durham Academy. Outside of debate, he enjoys watching Marvel movies, listening to music, and playing pranks on friends. Nehal was the first student to attend CDC for all four years of high school, and he is now excited to be a part of the CDC staff.

Hannah Kim

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Hannah Kim debated for three years in Lincoln-Douglas debate for Medina High School. She was LD captain for two years and the president of her debate team her senior year. Hannah qualified for the state tournament three years and NSDA nationals one year. She attended Classic Debate Camp from 2017-2019. This fall, she will be attending Case Western Reserve University where she may study cognitive science with a minor in childhood studies. Hannah looks forward to working with students and sharing her love for LD debate! 

Karishma Ponkshe

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Karishma Ponkshe competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate for four years. She served as the captain of the Mason High School Speech and Debate team her senior year and was the leader of her event for two years. She was a three-time state qualifier and three-time national qualifier. Her sophomore year she finished in the top 20 in extemporaneous debate at NSDA nationals. Her junior year she placed 5th in LD at the Ohio state tournament. Outside of debate, Karishma loves to play the piano and tennis. She attended Classic Debate Camp in 2017 and joined the LD staff in 2019.  Karishma is attending The University of Cincinnati where she is majoring in medical sciences.

Zach Paganini

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Having competed two years in extemp and two years in Lincoln-Douglas debate for University School, Zach Paganini believes in persuasive speaking as well as insightful argumentation. His accomplishments in debate include consistently breaking and placing in tournaments. In his senior year, Zach made it to the top 16 at the Ohio state tournament. He is now attending Miami University, where he continues to develop his argumentation and presentation by competing for the Mock Trial team. Outside of debate, Zach enjoys working backstage for musicals as stage manager, which he did for all four years of high school. He is excited to share what he has learned from debate and to help others become better public speakers.

Katie Blowers

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Katie Blowers competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate and in speech events for Gahanna-Lincoln for three years. She qualified for the Ohio state tournament three times and the NSDA national tournament her senior year. Outside of NSDA events, Katie also competed in biomedical debate. At the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) national tournament, she and her teammates placed 15th in 2017 and 9th in 2018. Currently, Katie is a student at Miami University, where she studies Political Science and Psychology. She is also a lead researcher for The Prosecution Project which tracks political violence in the US. She attributes much of her debate success to the skills she learned as a student at CDC in 2017 and is now excited to be returning as an instructor!

Dan Driscoll

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Dan Driscoll debated for Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown for four years. Dan qualified for the Ohio State tournament all four years and the NSDA national tournament three times. His successes in high school LD include 2nd place at Sylvania, 1st place at Glenoak, and 1st place in the Youngstown district tournament. Dan is a recent graduate of Columbia University, from which he received a bachelor's degree in Philosophy with honors. At Columbia, he competed in parliamentary debate and advanced to the novice nationals final round. Dan prefers debates that center on philosophy and questions of justice, and hopes to pass on his passion for the formal study of ethics. Outside of debate and schoolwork, Dan reads medieval history and spends time with his family.

Rachael Harris

Instructor - Lincoln-Douglas

Rachael Harris debated for four years at North Allegheny Senior High School and was an officer for her team during her senior year. She has experience in Lincoln-Douglas, Public Forum, Congress, and Big Questions, though she spent most of her time in LD. During her senior year, Rachael placed at 8 tournaments, including 2nd place at the Hampton Talbot Tournament and 7th place at the Pennsylvania State Tournament. She is a two-time NCFL qualifier in LD and a NSDA national qualifier in World Schools Debate. Rachael is attending Allegheny College where she is double majoring in political science and computer science with a minor in philosophy. Outside of debate, she enjoys playing violin and listening to vinyl records. Rachael is excited to share her passion for debate with the CDC campers she will meet next summer.

Information about additional staff members will be posted as their participation is confirmed.
If you are a high school senior who would like to receive information about joining the Classic Debate Camp staff as an intern, please email us at

© 2016, Classic Debate Camp, LLC

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