Dictation: A gift that keeps on giving

Dictation is a gift that keeps on giving. That was the message shared by official court reporters Karen Morris, Sonia Trevino, and Kimberly Xavier, RMR, CRR, CMRS, CRI, during a session held at the 2016 Texas Court Reporters Association’s Convention in San Antonio, Texas, held this past July.

The trio, along with a number of others, has been volunteering to provide live dictation to high-speed court reporting students for several years now and agree that there is no greater gift than giving a small amount of time to help court reporting students be successful.

Morris, who first began offering live dictation to high speed court reporting students in 1985, six days a week to assist students preparing to take the state’s CSR exam, recruited Trevino, Xavier, and others, as the effort evolved over the years. Today, the labor of love is dubbed the Confidence Dictation Sessions.

“I volunteered to work Karen on Monday night dictations in the summer of 2015, to help students prepare for the October CSR 2015 exam. Shortly thereafter, I started hosting my own sessions and was working with students in varying speeds, and it wasn’t limited to Texas. I had students from all over the country join in on sessions,” said Trevino, who has since taken the lead on organizing the sessions started by Morris.

Trevino said she was happy to take over as organizer when Morris contacted her to say that a family matter would prevent her from continuing her volunteering as often. At that point, said Trevino, Morris’ students began contacting her regarding live dictation opportunities. In turn, she suspended her sessions with lower speeds and students from around the country and began working solely with Texas CSR testing students.

“Karen didn’t have to ask. Her heart is so big for these students, and helping her has given me clarity as to how I could best help this profession,” added Trevino, who resides in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“There have been very positive responses from students saying that the dictation classes are exactly what they needed to help them pass the state CSR exam. So, it’s a great thing Karen started,” said Erminia Uviedo, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter from San Antonio, Texas, who also volunteers as a live dictator for the Confidence Dictation Sessions. She also serves on San Antonio College’s (SAC) Court Reporting Program Advisory Committee.

Currently, the volunteers offer dictation live via Zoom Video Conference Sunday through Wednesday evenings and again on Saturday evening. The sessions are then posted on Facebook page and uploaded to Speed Steno Divas, a site that was started by Uviedo during a mentorship at SAC. The site is available free to students from anywhere who are seeking dictation sessions for practice use.

Trevino also mentors students at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi through a group that meets monthly called Best of the Best Court Reporting Students. She provides live dictation at the meetings and also works to find convention sponsors for the students, organizes fundraisers to help pay for hotel room costs, and has also been known to show up the night before a state CSR exam to meet with students planning to take it and provide them with encouragement and often food. When Trevino can’t be there, she often finds a volunteer who will.

She said she can’t even put into words how much her volunteering has meant to her. “It’s one of those things that the only expectation you have is that maybe you can make a difference in someone’s life, and I hear it over and over again how our sessions helped get them to where they needed to be to pass this exam or to pass a certain speed in school.”

Uviedo agrees. “I looked over at the screen of one of our students I was sitting next to once when I was dictating. I saw she was a clean writer, and I told her, ‘Keep up the practicing on speed; you’re going to be a realtime writer one day.’ That same student wrote me a Facebook message after she found out she qualified for the state CSR exam and said, ‘Wow, thank you so much for believing in me like that! Your words to me back then meant so much they stuck with me all this time. You had faith in me when I didn’t really have faith in myself, and you commented on the one thing I was good at but wasn’t sure if I was wasting effort on — having good realtime. It’s made my life so much better with test-taking since the beginning, sticking to that style of writing. Thank you for your kind words then and now.’”

Trevino said that she believes since she began offering live dictation that about 13 students she has worked with have successfully passed the state CSR exam. She said she has also spent countless hours on the phone with many students to help ease their fears and frustrations.

“Those who pass are, of course, extremely happy. Those who don’t quite make it come back. They don’t quit, they come back. We work on so much more than just speed. We work on their confidence. The students know that we’re doing this because we want to help them and are very grateful that we take the time to do all of this. The words ‘I believe in you’ really can make a difference,” she said.

Uviedo added that the mentorship program at SAC that began last summer has also catapulted students to succeed.  In July, five students sat for the state CSR exam, a feat she said hasn’t happened in San Antonio in years.

“I would encourage reporters, if you live near a court reporting program (or even if you don’t), to please reach out to our court reporting students (or reach out online), offer some dictation, look over their work, offer tips, advice, writing tweaks. It can make a world of difference to a court reporting student and their success in school. You can change a student’s life just by looking over their work and giving them advice on their writing, test taking, or attitude. You might hold the advice that becomes the key to their success.

For Morris who started the volunteer dictation effort rolling back in 1985, she said she was recently contacted by the head of the court reporting program at SAC.

“She wanted to attend our sessions to see what our secrets were, because, a student who attends SAC had progressed so rapidly after attending our tutoring sessions for just six weeks,” said Morris.