NCRF announces 2017 Robert H. Clark Scholarship and New Professional Reporter Grant recipients

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) has announced that Valerie Melkus, RPR, Charleston, S.C., was named recipient of the 2017 New Professional Reporter Grant. The Foundation also announced that Laurel Stalnaker, a student from Sumner College in Portland, Ore., is the recipient of the 2017 Robert H. Clark Scholarship.

“I am honored and thrilled to be the recipient of the New Professional Reporter Grant, though I’m certain that every person who applied is just as deserving. Starting out as a new reporter is tough. Anyone who’s made it this far has been working his or her behind off,” said Melkus. “I’ve been using an old, noisy, slow, refurbished laptop for work. This grant will enable me to not only pay my bills, but I will finally be able to get myself a new computer. I am beyond grateful.”

NCRF awards the annual New Professional Reporter Grant to a reporter who is in his or her first year of work, has graduated within a year from an NCRA-approved court reporting program, and meets specific criteria, including a grade point average of 3.5 or above, a letter of recommendation, and active work in any of the career paths of judicial (official/freelance), CART, or captioning. Melkus, a graduate of the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., is the 13th recipient of NCRF’s New Professional Reporter Grant. She was recommended by J. Lynn Clark, RMR, president of Clark & Associates.

“I have been reporting and training new reporters since 1979. Valerie has been the most impressive new reporter I have ever had the pleasure to work with,” Clark wrote in her recommendation. “I feel like I have hit a court reporting home run with [Valerie]. She loves learning new things and implementing them in her writing. Her enthusiasm for court reporting is contagious!”

Laurel Stalnaker

Laurel Stalnaker

The $2,000 Robert H. Clark Scholarship is named for the late Robert H. (Bob) Clark, a court reporter from Los Angeles, Calif., who was dedicated to preserving the history of the profession. Stalnaker is the third recipient of this scholarship.

“I am humbled to have won this scholarship, and I am grateful to have been nominated by my instructor. It will allow me to invest in myself in my new profession,” said Stalnaker. “I have been in school for two years now, and since day one I have been using an older student steno machine. Lately it has been having connectivity issues during class and, even worse, during tests. Recently I have been looking to buy a newer model for reporting professionally since I am only three tests away from graduating, and this scholarship will allow me to start my career on a positive note. I am eager to invest in a newer model and to excel in my last exams before I graduate.”

Students are nominated by instructors or other officials at their schools. To be eligible, nominees must be NCRA members, enrolled in an NCRA-approved court reporting program, have passed at least one of their program’s Q&A tests at 200 words per minute, and possess a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, among other criteria.

“Laurel has been, from day one, nothing less than a very devoted student. Her attendance has been superb, and her commitment to this program has never once wavered,” said Jacqueline Butler, CRI, who nominated Stalnaker. “She has stayed focused on the end result. I have no doubts whatsoever that she will make a great reporter. She takes her work very seriously and makes sure she learns all she can along the way. It’s wonderful to see her win this award!”

To learn more about NCRF’s scholarships and grants, visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

Larry Luzod passes away

NCRA recently learned that retired member and firm owner Larry Luzod, Troy, Mich., passed away in December 2016.

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What to do with those old steno machines

Steno machines are no different than anything else in life. At some point, they need to be replaced. But what’s a reporter or captioner to do with their old machines? For some, the answer is to donate them to a court reporting program.

Three 1980s models of steno machines grouped together“A donated machine is very much appreciated by a student,” says Mary Beth Johnson, CRI, a professor of court reporting at the Community College of Allegheny County.

“Our school is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We live in an area where court reporters are very generous. Our students have been the beneficiaries of donated steno paper, machines, and thousands of dollars in scholarship monies. As a teacher, I am always appreciative of the largesse of court reporters,” she adds.

State court reporting associations also recognize the importance of donating old steno machines and other items to benefit students. Recently, both the California Court Reporters Association and the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association (WCRA) issued calls to their members to donate old machines to schools and to volunteers who are leading the A to Z Program, a free introductory course of basic steno for those who might be interested in pursuing a court reporting or captioning career.

“In Wisconsin, I know of several reporters who donated their steno machines to the court reporting schools and also to the A to Z Program,” says Sheri Piontek, RMR, CRR, CRC, an official from Green Bay and president of WCRA.

“The A to Z Program is what prompted Wisconsin to request donations of machines as a means of trying to increase the number of students in the court reporting profession. The only way this program is successful is by asking the reporters to donate their older models to the students,” she adds. To date, WCRA members have hosted two A to Z Programs within the state and have a third planned for the fall, Piontek notes.

Donating old machines to court reporting schools can also help offset tuition expenses for students. In some cases, donating a machine can be used as a tax deduction.

“When I decide to recycle or toss my steno machine, I give it to a court reporting student,” says Laura Lynn Murphy, RMR, a freelance court reporter from St. Louis, Mo.

“Many of them are renting a machine. I like to think that if they don’t have the rent to pay, they will be more inclined to join Missouri Court Reporting Association or, perhaps, NCRA as a student because they have to pay dues to join,” says Murphy.

“If there isn’t a need from a student, I donate the steno machine to Ranken Technical College. The students there are learning how machines work and when they tear down, hopefully, learn the machinations. I also give them old Dictaphones or digital equipment, anything that would help their training and not go into landfills,” she adds.

Murphy also suggests offering an old machine to companies that sells new ones in exchange for credit toward a new purchase. Many times, she notes, companies will use the old machines for repair parts.

Donating an old machine to a student is invaluable, according to Kelly Moranz, CRI, program manager and adjunct faculty at Cuyahoga Community College’s captioning and court reporting program in Cuyahoga, Ohio.

These machines are distributed to students in need, and it can sometimes mean a difference as to whether they can begin the program or not,” Moranz says.

“Professionals typically reach out to us if they have a machine to donate. Through the grants we have received in the past, we have machines for campus students that cycle through the program. We are able to supply online students with the same opportunity with the machines donated by professionals. Additionally, for students mentioning they have spoken to a professional, I encourage them to reach out and see if they have an extra machine available,” she adds.

Johnson notes that she and her staff are not at all shy about asking for donations of old machines and other items, especially since working professionals have been consistently very generous with the program.

“Donations are critical to the success of our program. Please know how grateful we are for decades of donations, not limited to machines, but also including guest speakers, mentors, and scholarship donors. In Pittsburgh, professional reporters donate their time, talent, and treasure consistently,” she says.

Advance your legal video skills at the NCRA Convention & Expo

VideographyNCRA offers legal videographers the opportunity to complete several steps toward their Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) certification at the NCRA Convention & Expo. Work toward the CLVS certification through the three-day CLVS Seminar and Production Exam while networking with both up-and-coming and highly regarded CLVSs and court reporters. There is also a ticketed Legal Videographers Reception on Friday from 6-7 p.m.

Robin Cassidy-Duran, RPR, CLVS, a freelancer and firm owner in Eugene, Ore., offers this advice on becoming a CLVS: “As a court reporter, I had observed many videographers over the years, and I sometimes envied their job as I struggled to get every word down on my machine. I decided that if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right. I wanted to be taken seriously when I walked into the deposition. I decided to begin with the Certified Legal Video Specialist program.”

Put CLVS after your name

Videographers new to legal video can take the three-day CLVS Seminar. If they have already completed the CLVS Seminar, then they can sign up for the CLVS Production Exam on Friday or Saturday.

Craig F. Mitchell, CLVS, states: “Had I not studied the CLVS standards, invested in top quality professional equipment, practiced, and intensely tested every aspect of what was expected, that first deposition certainly would have been my last.”

Legal videographers with sufficient deposition-taking experience may apply to take the CLVS Seminar and CLVS Production Exam concurrently. Once approved by the CLVS Council, experienced videographers will be notified that they can take the CLVS Seminar on Saturday and the CLVS Production Exam on Sunday.

CLVS candidates are encouraged to take advantage of the NCRA room block while in Las Vegas.

NCRA member gives back and gets back

dax (2)

Left to right: Tunch Ilkin, J. Dax Parise (holding award), and Craig Wolfley

Earlier this month, NCRA member J. Dax Parise, CLVS, was honored with the Locker Room Leadership Award from Light of Life Rescue Mission, a nonprofit homeless shelter based in Pittsburgh, Pa. Parise was recognized for his commitment to providing promotional video services at events and activities benefiting individuals and families experiencing housing crises. He was presented the award by former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers players Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley. Parise is the president of Veritas Legal Services in Pittsburgh, which has been in existence for 15 years and offers a wide range of court reporting, legal videography and videoconferencing services.

The JCR Weekly reached out to him to learn more about his volunteer work, what motivates him, and why he does what he does.

How did you become involved in Light of Life Rescue Mission?

A close friend approached me with a problem: Light of Life Rescue Mission had served as a beacon of hope for the homeless, the hungry, and those struggling with addictions since 1952, but no one was aware of the great work of this Pittsburgh-based nonprofit. I toured the mission’s facilities, and learned more about its programs and its people. I knew I had to find a way to help spread the stories of both the successes and challenges that those involved with Light of Life experience on a daily basis. Video work is my wheelhouse; it was a logical choice for me. I could visually share these inspirational stories.

How long have you been working with the group?

We’ve been volunteering for Light of Life since 2009.

What types of promo videos do you supply them with?

To raise awareness about a cause, you often need to demonstrate the problem. However, that doesn’t mean awareness videos need to be sad to make a point. Our videos tend to introduce viewers to the problem and then ask them to be a part of the solution. We share stories of those who have completed recovery programs. We also highlight ways to give back and personal tales of volunteers and community members. These videos bridge an emotional gap and highlight the life-changing effects of Light of Life in both an informative and inspirational way.

What is the most rewarding return for you from volunteering?

Light of Life is based in Pittsburgh, where I live and work. My work with them gives me the chance to make a direct impact on my community, to be a part of something bigger than myself, and to use my particular skills for a greater good.  

Did you know you were going to receive the Leadership Award?

My role is typically much more behind-the-scenes, so I was surprised to find out Light of Life planned to honor me! They reached out about a month ago and presented me with the award on May 12 as a part of an awareness event to promote their Memorial Day weekend walk to end homelessness.

What does it mean to have received the award?

While I certainly do not do what I do for recognition, being recognized by such an inspirational organization truly was an extraordinary moment. I was touched and so pleased I can use my passion to celebrate Light of Life’s work.

What would you tell others about why volunteering is important?

Volunteering for Light of Life has allowed me the opportunity to meet and work with phenomenal people, from diverse backgrounds, striving toward a common goal. These projects have helped me to better understand the community where I live and given me perspective on how the world really is. I’ve learned to employ gratitude in my daily life, and my volunteering shows my two sons just how critical it is that we help those less fortunate than us. For young people, volunteering is an excellent way to network, learn how to be a leader as well as a part of a team, and to build a resume.

Do you volunteer for other organizations?

Yes, we donate to other organizations regularly, but Light of Life has become so much more than a charity to Veritas Legal Services. They have become a part of our family.

NCRF Purple Heart event highlighted in association magazine

JCR logoAssociations Now posted an article on May 19 that notes the Purple Heart Day, as part of the Veterans History Project, hosted by the National Court Reporters Foundation at the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo.

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Former NCRA Board member Arlene Sommers passes

JCR logoThe Heritage Florida Jewish News posted an obituary on May 19 for Arlene Phyllis Sommers, past president of the Florida Court Reporters Association and a past NCRA Board member.

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Preserving history

Tiva Wood (left) interviews Edward Connor, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

Tiva Wood (left) interviews Edward Connor while Michelle Houston provides CART.

NCRF’s new Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project takes the Veterans History Project to the next level

By April Weiner

Edward Connor was dining in the mess hall when the Japanese bombed his base during World War II. Everyone was running for cover in a nearby ditch. “I landed on a guy and said to him: ‘As soon as we get out of this, I’ll take my feet out of your face,’” Major Connor told NCRA President Tiva Wood, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, who was interviewing him for the Veterans History Project (VHP). “He said, ‘You leave your feet where they is,’” since the feet were protecting the other soldier’s head. Major Connor lost most of his hearing when one of the bombs struck an airplane close to the ditch, but that didn’t prevent him from finishing his mission before returning home to seek treatment.

Connor, who served in the Air Force, was one of five veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss who chronicled their service experiences for the VHP at the National Court Reporters Foundation’s launch of its Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) headquarters in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday, Feb. 18. The other veterans interviewed were: Fred Becchetti, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II; David McWatters, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War; Charles Rupprecht, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War; and James Whitcraft, who served in the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War, among other conflicts. (Rupprecht and Whitcraft were interviewed over the phone.)

Glynis Locks takes down the interview of Charles Rupprecht.

Glynis Locks takes down the interview of Charles Rupprecht.

Court reporters and captioners traveled from as far as southern Virginia and Pennsylvania to volunteer their time and skills to preserve these veterans’ experiences for the VHP.

“Veterans always thank the court reporters who capture and transcribe their stories at events like the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project,” said Wood, who is a freelancer based in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “But truly, we are the ones who are thankful for being given the opportunity to honor them by ensuring that their stories become part of history forever through the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Being able to capture and preserve the stories of our war heroes who are hard of hearing takes a combined effort of the skills of court reporters and captioners and highlights the important role they play in allowing this group of veterans to tell their stories.”

In addition to Wood, the volunteers at the event were Cheryl Hansberry, RDR, CRR, CRC, Harrisburg, Pa., and her husband, Mike; Linda Larson, RPR, CRI, Carlisle, Pa.; Glynis Locks, Norfolk, Va.; Michelle Houston, RPR, Brandywine, Md.; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Nashville, Tenn.; Jan Hamilton, RDR, Arnold, Md.; Christina Hotsko, RPR, Arlington, Va.; and Meredith Dattoli, Bethesda, Md.

Hamilton transcribed Major Connor’s interview: “The most memorable thing for me was hearing [Connor] speak of the various battles, in the air and on the ground, and his bravery that led to him ultimately being awarded the Silver Star. It was a humbling experience to meet a decorated soldier of this era.”

Dattoli interviewed Rupprecht, and the experience was personally meaningful for her. “The most interesting part of our conversation to me was the fact that his hearing loss was the result of an accident,” said Dattoli. “He was only 21 or 22 when, while participating in training exercises, he happened to be right next to a missile that accidentally went off, which led to the hearing loss that he still experiences today, more than 40 years later. In the grand scheme of things, he was lucky that nothing worse happened, but his story really opened my eyes to how much the men and women in our military sacrifice every day, even if they aren’t on the front lines.” She added: “Having the opportunity to interview Mr. Rupprecht and hearing his story hit especially close to home for me because my older brother is in the Navy and my boyfriend is in the Army, and I have a higher appreciation now for how lucky they have been.”

From L to R: Cheryl Hansberry transcribes as Mike Hansberry interviews Fred Becchetti, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

From L to R: Cheryl Hansberry transcribes as Mike Hansberry interviews Fred Becchetti, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

NCRA members have been listening and taking down veterans’ stories since NCRF partnered with the Library of Congress in 2003 to have court reporters transcribe veterans’ stories from their collection of now more than 100,000 oral histories. In 2013, members were asked to preserve the stories of veterans who hadn’t yet recorded their histories through personal interviews and VHP Days. To date, NCRF has submitted more than 4,100 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

“This was one of those special moments in life where I was doing something for someone else,” said Larson. “[McWatters’] story will be preserved because I was there providing court reporting and then later transcribed it. His story will be stored at the Library of Congress and be a part of history.”

The Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project is a new NCRF initiative that specifically seeks to interview veterans with hearing loss for the VHP with the help of CART captioning. This is important because hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries due to constant exposure to loud noises in training and in combat. Hearing loss also tends to worsen over time. In addition to preserving these veterans’ stories for the VHP, the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project introduces CART captioning, which is a service that may benefit these veterans in their daily lives.

“One can’t help but become engrossed while listening to these amazing veterans tell their stories as if it were yesterday,” said Houston. “[Major Connor’s] wife reminded him to share events and awards he had left out to ensure we got the whole story. We were eager to hear it as well. It was a privilege and an honor to provide CART captioning for this project.”

Washington D.C.’s news channel NBC4 came to the event and heard from two of the veterans interviewed, Becchetti and McWatters, as well as NCRF Deputy Executive Director B.J. Shorak. “I was surprised to be on the Channel 4 News so much and that it was mostly as a hand model,” said Larson. “It was one of those days where you just don’t know what you’re getting into and you leave feeling like, I’m happy that I was there. It was a good day.”

From left to right: Michelle Houston, Sarah Connor, Edward Connor, Tiva Wood, and Jan Hamilton.

From left to right: Michelle Houston, Sarah Connor, Edward Connor, Tiva Wood, and Jan Hamilton.

NCRF will host Hard-of-Hearing Heroes VHP Days across the country, supported by an Innovation Grant from the American Society of Association Executives Foundation. The next event will be held during HLAA’s annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June, and a third event is planned in conjunction with the Association of Late-Deafened Adults’ annual convention, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., in October.

For more information, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF.

April Weiner is the National Court Reporters Foundation Manager. She can be reached for more information at aweiner@ncra.org.

Kislingbury tops list of Intersteno internet keyboarding contest

Intersteno logo -- a globe spinning on a pencil as an axisMark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Houston, Texas, placed first in Intersteno’s Internet Keyboarding Competition, held April 17 through May 9 via its website, in the single language category. Kislingbury recorded a total of 9,200 strokes with only 15 errors total. The second-place winner made 7,357 strokes.

The keyboarding competition consists of writing by machine or typing by keyboard as many words as possible of a selection provided visually on the screen. As part of the format of the contest, the text is automatically entered into an online computer program, which matches the original text against what the competitor entered for scoring.

In the Seniors section, Tori Pittman, FAPR, RDR, CRI, of Wake Forest, N.C., placed 72, and Donna Linton, RMR, of Ashburn, Va., placed 84, The Seniors section includes any competitor over the age of 21. Pitman is also chair of NCRA’s Intersteno Task Force.

NCRA member Michelle Grimes passes away

JCR logoNCRA member Michelle Lynn Grimes, a freelance reporter from Villa Park, Ill., passed away Thursday, May 11. She was employed by Planet Depos in St. Charles, Ill.

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