Our Staff

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Toni Nielson, tnielson@baudl.org
Toni Nielson has a Master's in Communication Studies and has been a member of the debate community for more than 20 years. Her teams have been the recipients of numerous awards including accommodations from the City of Garden Grove and the California House of Representatives. She is a Galentine Award recipient for excellence in coaching and is featured in the debate documentary "Resolved". Toni joined BAUDL programming in August of 2013 and rose to the role of Executive Director in February of 2015.

"I know this program is successful because I witness it every day. At 3:30pm, my office fills up with students with a thirst for knowledge and a genuine desire to lead their communities into a better future. Joining BAUDL is so much more than joining a debate league; we are a family." ​


Mya Whitaker, mwhitaker@baudl.org

Mya is the 1st Bay Area Urban Debate League Champion. As an alumni of Skyline, Mya received her Bachelor's degree in Communication from San Francisco State University. Prior to debate, Mya would say she was a fighter. Debate was the method that Mya used to improve her social skills. According to Mya, "I realized I was going to lose all of my opportunities." Mya decided to use words instead of fists. Currently, she is an avid youth advocate and mentor for BAUDL debaters.

Mya's long-term plan is to run for Congress and she is off to an amazing start. In 2008, Mya, with the help of the BAUDL, engaged in a public policy debate with (then) Judge Libby Schaaf. Mya and Libby hit it off; A few years later, Mya organized a roundtable for Oakland youth to speak directly to Mayor Schaaf and Superintendent Antwan Wilson. Students from Fremont, Castlemont, and Skyline came together to speak to powerful Oakland policy makers about the future of Oakland education. Mya is already making difference and continues to give Oakland youth a voice! For more on Mya, go to Mya Whitaker's story.

Rashid Campbell, rcampbell@baudl.org
In 2014, Rashid Campbell made debate history when he became the first African-American to win top speaker in the history of the National Debate Tournament. But before he was Rashid Campbell, National Debate Champion, he was Rashid Campbell, BAUDL debater. Rashid is honest about the obstacles he faced growing up in Oakland. Through debate he has found a way to channel this hardship into a full-ride college scholarship at the University of Oklahoma and an incredible string of achievements in debate. 

His accomplishment at the 2014 National Debate Tournament was profoundly historic. In more recent news, one can find Rashid on NPR, Democracy Now, and CNN​ as he publicly denounces the racism on his campus and calls people together to act.   Watch out world – Rashid Campbell isn't done, and nor are the hundreds of BAUDL debaters ready to follow in his footsteps. For more on Rashid, go to Rashid Campbell's story.  


Juan Carlos Ramos, jcramos@baudl.org

Juan Carlos Ramos is a BAUDL alumni, from Fremont High School, and now a University Of California, Berkeley senior.  He is studying Political Science with an emphasis in Comparative Politics. His main areas of study are Latin America and Europe. His interests in these regions led him to pursue a second degree in Iberian Languages and Literature. For Juan Carlos, debate was the beginning of his success story.

"I remember Ms. Kuhn, a Biology teacher, who wasn't even my teacher at the time suggested I give it a chance, she saw the potential of what could be, before I did. Little did I know, it would change my life forever"

Before debate, Juan Carlos was shy and timid, now he is inspired to go above and beyond. Having now done research at the University of the Azores (an autonomous Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic), and the Catholic University of Lisbon, Portugal; Juan Carlos hopes to continue to learn as much as possible about domestic and international politics in order to show students that debate opens doors to endless opportunities.

Alan Santos, santosparedes84@gmail.com
When Alan Santos started high school he never imagined the long path it would become. He started as an athlete, but by his junior year Santos had fallen far behind and was transferred to Downtown High School, a continuation school, for students on the verge of failing out of school. At Downtown, Santos met Ms. Grace, the debate coach, working on a school project. Santos was extremely credit deficient and the reality was if he made up credits the traditional way he would be in high school until he was 20. Out of desperation to graduate, Santos followed Ms. Grace's advice and joined the debate team. He loved it. The competition was a thrill and before he knew it Santos was spending all day, all weekend on school. He says, "I was the first one at the school and the last one to leave. The only people there more often than me were the janitors." Through debate Santos made up enough credits to receive his high school diploma. 

Mr. Alan Santos is now studying at Laney College and debating for St. Mary's. Alan Santos has his eye on immigration law and works for the league as a regional coordinator who does youth mentoring and outreach for six San Francisco high schools. For more on Santos, go to Alan Santos' story.  

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Gabriel Gangoso, gabriel.gangoso@gmail.com
Gabe Gangoso had an excellent debate career at Skyline High School. He joined the debate class in high school and fell in love with the sense of community and the ability to share ideas with other youth. Gabe feels like BAUDL was a huge opprotunity where he could travel and meet new people. 

Gabe is now studying at UC, Berkeley. Gabe Gangoso is studying philosophy because he is "a seeker of wisdom". His love for kritik debate in high school lent itself toward a philosophy degreee. He is a life-long learner and hope to teach.