Monica Spear, Executive Director
Monica Spear, Executive Director

Monica has dedicated her professional life to empowering young people and brings a wealth of executive experience to her position as SVUDL's leader.  After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, Monica began her career of more than 20 years with Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara.  In her 12 years as Executive Director there, she grew the organization into a $3 million per year powerhouse with a staff of 100 employees, serving over 1,500 girls per year. 

Monica's experience, passion, and professional integrity have earned her wide recognition as a nonprofit leader.  This includes being chosen by the Pacific Coast Business Times as a "Top Leader in Non-Profits" eight out of nine years from 2006 to 2014 and being selected as a "Local Hero" by The Santa Barbara Independent. 

Monica brings the vision, dedication, and innovation necessary to broaden and deepen the scope of the vital work and meaningful mission of SVUDL, ensuring every student may benefit from the life-changing experiences SVUDL affords them.

Trinya "Ms. T" Smith, Director of Programs
Trinya "Ms. T" Smith, Director of Programs

Over a dozen years ago, Trinya found a passion when she began debating with the Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL) as a high school sophomore. She debated for 3 years with BUDL and 5 more as the recipient of a full debate scholarship to Towson University. Trinya earned her B.S. in Elementary Education from Towson, along with many speaker and team awards for debate.

After graduation, Trinya taught middle school Social Studies and English, continuing to work with BUDL as a debate coach. She also launched the only youth-run chapter of the nationally acknowledged Hip Hop Congress, a non-profit that uses hip-hop, public advocacy and social activism to create positive change. “Ms. T” has worked with students of all ages, setting positive but firm high expectations and instilling in them her own personal push for excellence. SVUDL is a natural fit for this career urban debate expert. 

Shauntrice L. Martin, Program Director - Peninsula Region
Shauntrice L. Martin, Program Director - Peninsula Region

Shauntrice is a long-time youth advocate with a passion for pedagogy. She has worked with hundreds of youth and educators both domestically and internationally to share her love for social justice. During her career in K-12 education, she trained with Ella Baker Freedom Schools and completed fellowships in Belize, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Dominican Republic.

As a critically acclaimed debater at the University of Louisville, she earned numerous speaker awards, maintained a winning record, and placed 3rd in the American Debate Association  National Tournament. Her first ‘debate job’ was directing an adjudicated youth debate squad at the former Oak Hill Youth Detention Center near Washington, DC. Shauntrice is also the mother of Black Superboy! She brings ten years of experience in Urban Debate Leagues and youth advocacy groups across the country to the SVUDL team.

Rome Hamner, Development and Communications Manager
Rome Hamner, Development and Communications Manager

Rome is a unique combination of fundraiser, nonprofit administrator, and teacher. After earning her MPA from the University of Arizona, she embarked on a career whose highlights include restoring a river on tribal land, fundraising for a social services nonprofit, and co-founding an arts and education nonprofit that grew to become a leader in its region.

Rome has a passion for providing enriching educational opportunities to low-income and underserved youth. Her direct experience in providing taiko (Japanese drumming) classes in Title I schools in southern Arizona showed her that nearly all students want to succeed and, given the right tools and support, they can. She is excited to put her blend of fundraising and programmatic know-how to good use with SVUDL.

Mary Manasan, Administrative & Operations Manager
Mary Manasan, Administrative & Operations Manager

Mary, a self-described natural planner, comes to SVUDL with 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Those 15 years included 13 years in management, where she relished the challenge of overseeing staff, guest interaction, and sales in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment. Her move to the nonprofit sector was motivated by a desire to give back, and her administrative and operations experience are strong additions to the SVUDL team.

Mary was born in the Philippines and grew up in the Bay Area. An introvert, she highly values having enough confidence in your own voice to speak up. She is inspired by the way SVUDL leverages youth voice, helping young people do more than sit on the sidelines and watch. Mary is also currently studying Business Administration at Mission College. When she’s not studying or changing young lives by working behind the scenes at SVUDL, Mary enjoys cooking and going on day trips with her fiancé and their dog Milo. 

Mariam Ahmed, Alumni Intern
Mariam Ahmed, Alumni Intern

Mariam graduated from Silver Creek High School in May 2016. She credits her time on the Silver Creek debate team with increasing her awareness and understanding of social justice. Although she was only on the team for one year, she and her partner made it to the finals of the SVUDL 2016 League Championship. She is one of the six young women who participated in the intense research,  preparation, and public speaking experience provided by the HPE Moot Court.

Currently majoring in Biology at DeAnza College, Mariam plans to transfer to a 4-year university after completing her general education requirements. After college, she plans on attending either medical school or law school, eventually working towards a career as a doctor or an attorney focused on science litigation.  

Destiny Anderson, Alumni Intern
Destiny Anderson, Alumni Intern

Destiny recently graduated from Oak Grove High School, where she was Founding Captain of the SVUDL-supported Debate team. She had an illustrious career as a SVUDL debater: she was a founding member of the Women's Association, was one of six young women to argue privacy vs. security in front of sitting Federal judges in the HPE Moot Court, and she earned multiple awards at SVUDL Tournaments. 

Destiny is a participant in the Legal Career Mentor program and is currently attending SJSU, where she's majoring in Psychology. She plans to pursue a legal career helping families who have experienced domestic violence. 

Mylan Gray, Alumni Intern
Mylan Gray, Alumni Intern

Mylan quickly fell into love with debate in his local urban debate league, Debate Kansas City, in sixth grade. Now, many years later, he has turned that love for debate into a broader love for community and the fight for social justice. Mylan uses the tools he learned in debate to improve both debate and the world around him. His ambitions for political office come largely from the empowerment he received from the debate community. 

While interning with SVUDL, Mylan hopes to use his previous work experience as an activities director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City to add a unique midwestern flavor. As a current student at Stanford University, Mylan studies political science and African and African-American studies with his eyes set on Harvard law. He aims to place the academic intellect found on Stanford’s campus and in class into the hands of the debaters, so they too may empower themselves.

Brandon Montes, Alumni Intern
Brandon Montes, Alumni Intern

As founding captain of the Overfelt High debate team, Brandon helped grow one of the flagship programs in SVUDL. With guidance and support from coach Mark Wightman and league staff, he helped lead the Overfelt Royal Debaters to stand their ground and make a name for themselves. The team offered Brandon a chance to expanded his skills as well as being able to give back and offer his support to the next generation of SVUDL debaters.

As an intern, Brandon pursues his passion for coaching and helping novices and new recruits become strong leaders and skilled debaters. He currently attends De Anza Community College and plans to transfer next year, balancing his interests in political science and communications. Over the long term, Brandon plans to give back to his community as a politician or public servant.

SunHee Simon
SunHee Simon

A debater since 7th grade, SunHee has risen to national championship level in both Lincoln Douglas (LD) and Policy Debate. In 2015, she was one of only 2 people to qualify to the Tournament of Champions in Cross Examination (CX) and LD.  SunHee won numerous awards at national tournaments in high school, including LD champion at the Greenhill Invitational and LD co-champion of the Cal Round Robin and the Cal Invitational at Berkeley. She is a former member of the USA National Debate Team. Her freshman year at Stanford University--where she is now a student--she earned the semifinal title at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) national tournament. She currently coaches James Logan High School and is excited to be involved with SVUDL.