NCRF accepting nominations for Frank Sarli Memorial and Student Intern scholarships

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is now accepting nominations for the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship and the Student Intern Scholarship. The deadline for both these scholarships is Dec. 1.

Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

NCRF’s Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship of $2,000 has benefited court reporting students nearing graduation for 20 years. The award honors the late Frank Sarli, a court reporter who was committed to supporting students at the highest level of their education. Sarli, who was studying to become a professional pianist, turned to court reporting when he could no longer afford the tuition to music school. During his career, he opened Accurate Court Reporters in Orlando, Fla., Orange County’s first independent court reporting firm, and was a founding member of the Florida Shorthand Reporters Association. Sarli also served in numerous roles at the national level, including as a director for NCRA. He was the first Floridian to earn NCRA’s Distinguished Service Award.

“This scholarship helped me immensely because I was able to use some of the funds for my professional machine, which helped me enter the workforce without being in debt, the first leg of my RPR, and my airfare to attend the NCRA Convention in Chicago, which was incredibly inspiring and motivating for a new reporter/recent grad,” said Nicole Bulldis, RPR, an official court reporter in Pasco, Wash., and the 2016 recipient of the Sarli scholarship.

Court reporting students must be nominated by an instructor or advisor and meet a number of specific criteria to be eligible, including:

  • enrollment in an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • passing at least one of the court reporting program’s Q&A tests at a minimum of 200 words per minute
  • having a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale,
  • demonstrating the need for financial assistance
  • possessing the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation

Submit a nomination for the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

Student Intern Scholarship

Each year, NCRF awards two $1,000 scholarships to students who have completed or are currently performing the required internship portion of their court reporting program. They must also meet other specific criteria, including:

  • current membership in NCRA
  • having a grade point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
  • attending an NCRA-approved court reporting program

A generous annual donation from the Reis Family Foundation helps fund these scholarships.

“Receiving [this scholarship], was a financial boon for my transition from student intern to working reporter,” said Stephen Sudano, a freelance court reporter from Bohemia, N.Y., and one of the 2016 recipients of the Student Intern Scholarship. “A career as a freelance court reporter requires a substantial investment to get off the ground. This scholarship helped pay for my professional equipment, and I appreciate it to this day.”

Submit a nomination for the Student Intern Scholarship

NCRF’s scholarships and grant are supported by donations to the NCRF Angels Drive and other fundraisers. To learn more about these scholarships, and to find the nomination forms, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

Access to a master: The value of having a mentor

Man in a suit sitting at a steno machine next to a screenBy Joshua Edwards

Back in 2016 before giving my first speech at my local Toastmasters club, I emailed a draft of my speech to my assigned mentor, Jason. Jason is a seasoned member of our club and has given dozens of speeches over the years. He had developed a keen eye for how to craft an effective speech. Jason redlined through several paragraphs of my speech and typed a note about getting right to the point. I accepted his input and rewrote the speech. Had I not worked with a mentor and done it on my own, I would probably have droned on and on about things that are interesting to just one person — me — and barreled through the four- to six-minute time limit.

In the field of court reporting, I am a mentor to several students through both NCRA and the New York State Court Reporters Association. I try to give them the same beneficial insight in reporting as Jason gave me in Toastmasters: to avoid pitfalls, discover best practice habits, and stay disciplined and focused. I’ve heard anecdotes of students spending precious time in useless practice habits like sitting in front of a television and writing the news while the writer is turned off. (How do you know what you are writing?) A student may think that is effective practicing, but without the feedback of either paper notes or a realtime display, it is just a vain exercise.

All of us know how hard court reporting is. In fact, speedbuilding can be just as nerve-racking as public speaking. We can all empathize with the student who has been stuck at a particular speed for what feels like eons and the bitter disappointment of failing that speed test week after week. That student may be just one more failed test away from jumping ship and abandoning a significant investment of time and money. The difference between walking away in frustration and becoming a successful court reporter often hinges on wise input from a mentor.

Mentors guide students, and they offer encouragement and practical advice based on personal experience. When a student works with a mentor, that student has prime access to an individual who has mastered the craft of court reporting and worked in the field long enough to know a thing or two. A well-qualified mentor has operated in a wide variety of settings and has faced and survived both the tedious routine and the exciting challenges that can happen in the course of a court reporter’s day. Think of a young voice student who had the chance to work with the legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti had a passion for singing and for encouraging young singers to refine their craft. He not only performed in major opera houses across the globe, but he coached many voice students as well.

Whether a reporting student needs help, an occasional pep talk, or a serious high-voltage motivational speech, the mentor is willing to commit the time and to be responsive to the student’s needs. It goes without saying that the student must be equally committed and willing to put in his or her due time and effort. Remember this is a volunteer effort. Time is valuable to us all, and being a mentor means being willing to give some of that precious time for free. Likewise, the student needs to respect the time and energy given by the mentor for his or her benefit.

I have a mentee* who occasionally sends me her transcribed assignments to look at the punctuation. While reviewing a jury charge, she had put in so many underscores denoting drops that I had to stop marking the grammar. Instead, I wrote a note in red ink: “It is critically important that you practice at a speed you can actually get down.” Her practice habits were not going to yield much success if she continued practicing at too-high speeds, dropping too many words, and trying to learn punctuation from incomplete passages.

*(Yes, mentee is a real dictionary word. Be sure to define it so you don’t get minty, men tea, men tee, or heaven forbid, meanty.)

Communication is key for a mentoring relationship to be successful, whether it happens by email, phone, text, video conference, or in person, if possible. Each week I send an email to a list of more than 90 students and working reporters. The email may cover anything related to the field. After coming back from NCRA’s Convention in Las Vegas, I wrote a lengthy piece summarizing my experiences there. Being a mentor means sharing your professional expertise to help a student reach his or her goals. Being a mentee means receiving valuable tutelage, for free, from a pro who has already been there. So go ahead and sign up. Your future may well depend on it!

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, is a captioner in New York, N.Y. He can be reached at joshua@jbreporting.com.

Convention conversations

This year, students attending the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., were treated to a range of different seminars aimed at preparing them for testing, contests, and the real world beyond graduation. Up-to-Speed asked attendees for feedback on the student experience and they shared their highlights of the Convention.

Group photo of students and the NCRA Board of Directors posed with enthusiasm

Students pose with the NCRA Board of Directors after a special meet and greet

The opportunity to network was one of the benefits students mentioned most. “The Convention was very motivational for me,” said Hailey Treasure, a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. “It was awesome to see how excited all the working reporters were to meet students and to hear them talking about what a good career reporting is and how much they love it after all these years. It was also nice to hear all the tips they had to share for practicing speed.” Meeting other reporters at the Convention was an especially useful opportunity for online students.

When asked to share her best takeaway from the Convention, Lindsay Pepe, who studies with online program SimplySteno, answered, “So many things! Being an online student, I don’t get a lot of interaction with other reporting students or actual reporters, so it was such a great experience being surrounded by them.” Brianna Carpenter, also with SimplySteno, agreed: “I enjoyed the opportunity to be around reporters because being a student is very isolating with schools switching to an online environment.”

Attending the social events such as the Awards Luncheon and the “Only New Once” Reception was also a great way to meet and talk with other working reporters. At the reception, first-time attendees shared drinks with the NCRA Board of Directors and the NCRF Board of Trustees. “They were so welcoming and encouraging,” Pepe commented.

A large luncheon in a hotel ballroom with people seated at round tables; in the background is the logo for the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Students from MacCormac mingle during the Awards Luncheon

Of course, networking is just one reason students come to the Convention. Another is to attend the student seminars and learn from the best. Speed dating has become a favorite way to meet people, and the “Steno Speed Dating” session proved no less popular. “It was an awesome way to meet working reporters,” said Treasure, “and to ask all the questions you have about their particular area of reporting.” In this seminar, students sat around 10 tables while professional court reporters, CART captioners, and broadcast captioners rotated from table to table every fifteen minutes so that all students had an opportunity to ask each of them questions. Unfortunately, a power outage at Planet Hollywood (along with Paris and Bally’s) shortened the time for speed dating, but the presenters and moderator Shaunise Day, a student at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., moved the session along and got everyone back up to speed.

The presenters were:

  • Dee Boenau, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR
  • Linda Christensen, RMR, CRR, CRC
  • Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR
  • Cheryl Haab, RPR
  • Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Stanley Sakai, CRC
  • Jennifer Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Joe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC
  • Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR

Ashley Hurd, of the Long Island Business Institute in Commack, N.Y., gave the speed-dating session a good review: “This seminar provided excellent tips and advice from professional reporters in different areas. Knowing these reporters were once in my shoes as students gives me hope that I can be successful like they are.” The fast pace of the format kept the questions flowing and the reporters on their feet.

A young woman and a young man stand next to each other smiling

Shaunise Day and Stan Sakai pose after the steno speed dating session (photo from Stan Sakai)

Another dynamic session that garnered a lot of attention was “Business of Being a Court Reporter.” Presenters Michael Hensley, RPR; Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Katherine Schilling, RPR; and Jessica Waack, RDR, CRR; demonstrated real-world scenarios in a mock setting to show students the ins and outs of what it’s like on an actual job. The idea was to expose students to the kinds of situations they probably don’t encounter inside the classroom.

For Hurd, this session was a way to extend her learning beyond her coursework. “As a visual learner, having this segment for representation was exciting,” Hurd said. “I was able to see how everything I’ve learned in school came to life.” She added that students often question what are “the proper, respectful, and professional ways to interject as a court reporter,” but this session “answered every doubt in a student’s mind.” Presenters also demonstrated the preferred way to conduct oneself around attorneys, witnesses, and judges.

For Amy Flaherty, of GateWay Community College in Phoenix, Ariz., this was her favorite session: “It really covered the basics in an entertaining way. Having the panel be so diverse was incredibly helpful. The panel members were down to earth and informative.” Pepe agreed. “Really fun and educational session,” she said. “It was great getting the opinions on how each individual would handle the hypothetical situations. Probably one of my favorite sessions at the Convention!” Interactive sessions like this one infused an element of entertainment and kept the students engaged.

What would students like to see more of in 2018? Hurd, the student from Long Island Business Institute, is concerned about scheduling her sessions around her class time and wants to try to avoid any overlap. Pepe, from SimplySteno, would like more time to visit with vendors in the Expo Hall. And Whitney Berndt, a student at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis. is thinking even farther ahead. “I would have appreciated an opportunity to discuss the future of court reporting schools, education, and testing to hear how NCRA is dealing with the lack of new reporters and how to get more students out of school.” Berndt will get an opportunity to share her ideas over the coming year as a member of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

A broadcast captioner sees the future in realtime

A woman sits in front of a steno machine, set up to work from home. On her desk is her laptop and paper notes propped up for easy viewing. On the wall is a television screen with a news show.By Cathy Penniston

I live in Iowa, but I make my living listening to the Canadian news. I work for The Captioning Group, Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, as a remote broadcast captioner four days a week. But every Thursday, I take a break from the news and travel to Newton, Iowa, to teach court reporting students at the Des Moines Area Community College. My goal is to share my wealth of experience with my students. I have worked as an official shorthand reporter, a freelance reporter, a CART captioner, and a broadcast captioner, and I bring this real-world experience to my classes.

As a busy broadcast television captioner and an instructor of court reporting students, I encourage my students to embrace realtime. If my students comment that it is difficult to learn realtime, I remind them that when I went to court reporting school, there were manual Stenograph machines and typewriters. Long vowels? That would be taken care of when reporters sat down at the typewriter to type each page into English from their paper shorthand notes. Nowadays, this is all done instantaneously through high-tech machines.

But more so, I believe that realtime is vital to the continued successful future of the court reporting profession. A digital recording in a courtroom cannot accurately provide a real-time speech-to-text feed of the live proceedings to the judge. And a digital recording cannot provide live captions of breaking news or emergency information broadcast over television stations where realtime captions are needed to save lives.

At first, realtime stenography can seem quite daunting. But excellent instructors and programs can get students on the path to achieving their goals and becoming successful in the field of realtime captioning. Here are seven tips from a broadcast captioner and court reporting instructor to get started on your journey to learning realtime.

  1. Enjoy realtime and the great feeling of success when steno words translate into English correctly. Do not be afraid of realtime.
  2. Analyze and correct every word that does not translate from steno to English correctly. There is a reason for every untranslated word. Why did that word not translate? What can you do to correct that word to make it translate properly for your next transcript? Do not ignore untranslates!
  3. Know your dictionary and how words are going to translate with your dictionary. Finger combinations that work well for one student may not work well for another student. Try the suggested way to write the word. If the finger combination does not work for you, try writing it in a way that will translate for you. Define the word in your dictionary that way and write it down. Practice that word until you have memorized it.
  4. Briefs are good only if you memorize them and remember them quickly. A bad brief is worse than no brief at all. Your goal is a good realtime translation.
  5. Write out every word and add it to your dictionary for the time when you forget your brief. Do not hesitate to remember briefs.
  6. Your goal is great realtime translations, not winning a race for having the most briefs and then hesitating during speed tests trying to remember those briefs. Briefs can be your best friend or your enemy in realtime reporting.
  7. Back up your dictionary every week. Email a copy of your dictionary to yourself and back it up in the cloud.

Realtime reporting is the key to the future of our profession. Embrace realtime as you strive to achieve your goal of graduation from school.

After working for many years as an official shorthand reporter in the State of Iowa, Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, CSR, “retired” to pursue her dream of completing her master’s degree in teaching and working as a remote television broadcast captioner and teacher. She can be reached at cpenniston@gmail.com. This article was originally published, in a slightly different format, on the blog for The Captioning Group as “7 Things Your Instructor Wants You to Know About Realtime Writing!”

Striking a different key, and hitting a new note

A young woman sits in front of a steno machine poised as ready to write. Her laptop is open on the table in front of her.Brittaney Byers, of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Parma, Ohio, has been working at the keys since she was 4 years old, practicing her drills and improving her finger dexterity. Before starting at Tri-C, she had been trained by some of the best at Cleveland State University. But Byers isn’t a lifelong stenographer; she’s a pianist who went searching for a different tune.

Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school or did you have another career first?

When I came out of high school, I was originally aiming for a career in music therapy. However, that didn’t work out. I ended up studying at Cuyahoga Community College after leaving my previous university, originally for a degree in liberal arts, and then switching to the court reporting and captioning program.

How did you first get the idea of being a court reporter?

When I was studying at Tri-C, I was kind of unsure about what I should focus on studying while I was there, and I was looking for a career that would allow flexibility in my schedule and a lot of typing, which I enjoyed. (At the time, I had no idea that writing on a steno machine was any different than writing on a QWERTY keyboard.) I happened to be looking at television one day, saw the captions running across the bottom of the screen, and thought, “I wonder who does that, and I wonder if I could do that.” I looked up stenography and found out there was a court reporting and captioning program at the school I was already currently attending! I just decided to go for it!

How does being a pianist translate into stenography? What about it makes it easier (or harder) to write?  

I think I’m better able to learn briefs and finger combinations than I would be if I didn’t study piano. I also think I’m at a better place with my finger dexterity. However, the thing that helps the most is not from a writing perspective. Studying piano in school was very similar to studying stenography. Most of the things that my professors ask me to do now are the same as what my music professors asked me to do. Things like keeping a practice journal, reading back (or listening to myself) for feedback, using a metronome, isolating problem areas, and many other practice techniques are all things that I was introduced to (and continue to learn and work on now) while I was studying piano.

What other skill sets do you think would be helpful for a court reporter to possess?

The more I learn about this field, the more I realize how critical good organizational skills are to a successful court reporter. This is definitely something that I am still working on and will probably be working on for a very long time to improve. I can only imagine how much it takes to keep your schedule together for jobs (especially if you work with more than one agency), organize taxes and other financial things, and keep the rest of your life in order.

What kinds of challenges have you faced during your court reporting program?

My biggest challenge is trying to find a healthy balance between work, school, and life. I am currently working full time, which is not something I was doing when I was studying music, so trying to find the correct balance between earning enough income and having enough time and energy to practice is something that I am working to perfect.

What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

I’ve been hearing this piece of advice in different forms and different places recently, but it still rings true. The biggest battle you have to fight will be with yourself. I have to continuously believe that I can do it. The speed is not going to be my biggest problem; it’s going to be my mindset. I have to battle myself to get on the machine after a long day of work, to stay encouraged after a bad test, or to do just five more minutes of writing when I feel I can’t anymore. I know if I can win the battle within myself and develop a positive mindset, and continue to improve my discipline, I will be able to succeed, no matter what.

If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning?

I would let them know that if they wanted a career that would grant them a lot of flexibility and a high earning potential, they should join the court reporting field! We need more new faces! Of course, I would let them know that learning stenography and getting up to speed require a lot of discipline, but for the people who stick it through, there is great reward. I would tell them about the amazing experience I’ve had here at Tri-C and the awesome and supportive staff I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They will really do their part to make sure you have the best chance at success.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I hope to have passed the RPR Exam, and to have finished the court reporting and captioning program at Tri-C. I really want to go out to southern California and work there either doing freelance work or CART.

Speed challenge gives students serious practice time by treating it like work

Collage of photos: In one, a groupd photo of people standing around a chair covered in red velvet cloth (one person is sitting in the chair); everyone is wearing gold plastic crowns and there is an open treasure chest. Along the side are three individual photos of smiling students sitting in the red velvet chair next to the treasure chest and holding a plastic sword or a ribbon streamer.

Tri-C students who participated in the “Slay a speed in seven hours” event. Right, top to bottom: Tara Harris, Nicole Parobek, Brittaney Byers

Eleven students from the Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio, committed to participate in a challenge dubbed “Slay a speed in seven hours,” designed to focus them on serious practice time while treating it like the work it is.

During the event, which ran from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., each student was given an individualized practice plan and goal by their instructor. After each hour, progress was evaluated and any adjustments were made accordingly, explained Kelly Moranz, CRI, Tri-C program manager and adjunct faculty.

“After lunch, speed tests were taken for the remainder of the day. Stroke/word counts were tallied for the day, and 152,203 strokes/words were written,” Moranz said. “All students demonstrated progress in their writing, and 12 speed tests were passed — one being a 225 Q&A!”

According to Tri-C Associate Professor Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, the idea of the challenge grew from discussions with students about ways to approach practice time seriously.

“The challenge seemed a good way to demonstrate that practice takes a lot of work, by offering students a seven-hour workday. Lots of practice occurs, but in evaluating practice times and habits from homework, it was realized that a focused, longer day of skill development was needed,” Krueger said.

According to Moranz, Tri-C offers its court reporting and captioning students similar challenges from time to time, such as seeing who can practice the most hours, who can write the most strokes, and who can practice the most days in a row without missing a single day.

“Students who passed a test received a specially created certificate with a graphic of a sword going through the steno machine. Our focus was to motivate them for the sake of learning and recognize their efforts toward success, with a tangible prize secondary to the personal reward of gaining speed and accuracy,” Moranz said.

“I attended the ‘Slay a speed’ event, and it was beneficial for me because I passed a speed test,” said Tara Harris, a student in Tri-C’s court reporting program. “I think it helped to be away from home in a classroom setting or maybe it was the structure of the event with the mission to write as much as you can each hour. Also, our phones were confiscated upon arrival, and that helped because I didn’t even think about my phone.”

“Challenges provide the opportunity for students to focus on the positive aspects of their work, recognize their successes as well as their challenges, build camaraderie, and strengthen their commitment to complete the program and reach their goals,” said Krueger.

Krueger added: “Veering away from the usual routine of school work can be invigorating as the personal, academic, and physical skill improvements are seen as positive and motivating.”

Highlights from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: A student’s experience

Four young women pose in matching light blue shirts with steno written on the front

MacCormac students wear matching shirts at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: (l-r) Ariel Kraut, Brianna Uhlman, Marissa Loring, and Hailey Treasure

By Ariel Kraut

I am very appreciative for the time I got to spend at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas. What a fun and vibrant location for court reporters to come together and connect as a community!

On our first day, we visited the Expo Hall and got to explore many innovations in reporting technology. Things that I never even thought of, like ergonomic machines, different types of travel bags, all kinds of software, and much more, were on display. We got some great swag and were able to connect with vendors from all types of companies related to the field. I loved the neon light-up writer!

It was amazing to see all of the different types of new technology associated with the Stenograph machines knowing that I will soon be purchasing my own when I finish school. I really enjoyed watching a demonstration involving the audio-recording capabilities of the Luminex writer. Not only can you direct it to go back to the last question you asked in a testimony dictation, but the audio-sync feature allows you to listen to the actual dictation in addition to seeing the question on your screen. If only I had that available during tests!

My favorite part of the Convention was the being able to speak with reporters from all different fields. It was exciting to have so many people come up to us, knowing that we were students, and introduce themselves. All of the pros were so warm and welcoming to us. People from all over the country were so happy to see us students and had nothing but the most encouraging things to say. I even spoke with the President of NCRA multiple times and felt great about it. It was inspiring to see that many of the people we spoke with actually won awards for the Speed and Realtime Contests and were honored during the luncheon.

An especially good time for networking was in the “Steno Speed Dating” part of the first day of the student track. We got to sit with very successful reporters, including speed contest winners, realtime writers, captioners, and even a court reporter who worked in the House of Representatives. It is inspiring to see the places that this career can take you if you apply yourself. I also appreciated hearing about these professionals’ school experiences and what the biggest struggles were for each of them. I got some practice tips and some great advice as to how I can clean up my notes and build my speed at the same time.

Another very beneficial session was “Business of Being a Court Reporter.” There, we got to see a mock deposition take place with a panel of professional reporters pausing to explain certain parts of the process. They would also tell us what they would do if something unusual would happen and frequent issues that may come up on the job.

I am very thankful that I was able to attend this Convention as I found it reinvigorating for me as a student. School can be stressful sometimes, but seeing all of these successful women and men in the field made me feel like I was on the right track and I have a great life to look forward to in this field.

Ariel Kraut is a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at akraut@maccormac.edu.

Read “Finding court reporters’ paradise” by MacCormac student Brianna Uhlman.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

Finding court reporters’ paradise

By Brianna Uhlman

The NCRA Convention & Expo is like the Shangri-la of court reporting. The things you learn, the relationships you build, and the experiences you take with you are irreplaceable. You leave motivated to finish school and determined to make the most out of your time in this profession.

Four young women pose in matching light blue shirts with steno written on the front

MacCormac students wear matching shirts at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: (l-r) Ariel Kraut, Brianna Uhlman, Marissa Loring, and Hailey Treasure

The Expo Hall at the NCRA Convention is truly a magical place. Even as a student, the exhibitors are so willing and eager to talk to you and show you all that is new in the world of court reporting. In the Expo Hall, you can learn so much about the newest technology, whether it’s machines, updates in software, etc. You get to test out different machines from all different vendors. You have the opportunity to learn about several different companies that are involved in the court reporting world. You have the opportunity to talk face-to-face with some of the business owners and representatives who you will be working with for the rest of your career. And you can win so much free stuff!

Getting the chance to mingle with some of the top reporters around the country and the globe is such an invaluable experience. Talking with members of the Board, speed contest champions, and the like is extremely motivational. For me personally, I come from a small town with small dreams and not a lot of opportunity. When first enrolling in court reporting school and joining the court reporting community, I had no idea where this career could take me. But at events like the NCRA Convention, you get to know these amazing and successful people who may have come from a situation similar to yours. But because of this profession and all of the opportunity and their personal hard work and dedication, they have taken themselves so far. It makes you dream bigger and work harder for those dreams. It shows you that no matter your background or your current standing, there is no limit to where this profession can take you. If you work hard, stay motivated, and keep pushing yourself to get through school, you can have a very successful and fulfilling career.

Having the opportunity to talk to other students from all over the country is so encouraging. It really makes you realize that you are not alone in the struggles of court reporting school. There is a whole community of students who are having difficulty with speeds, getting stuck in similar areas, and experiencing the same discouragements you are experiencing. But being able to discuss these experiences and learn about other people’s techniques and tricks is so helpful. They are there to encourage you to keep going. Seeing the resilient spirit of other students is inspiring. Experiencing the genuine care and comradery from other students creates such an honest atmosphere of support and sincerity. It truly is a community of people that want to see you succeed in this profession, and that is just not something you see very often.

I am so thankful for the court reporting community. And I am so thankful for the NCRA Convention & Expo that creates the opportunity for this community to come together and create positive, long-lasting impacts on its members and their profession.

Brianna Uhlman is a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at brianna.uhlman@gmail.com.

Read “Highlights from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: A student’s experience” by MacCormac student Ariel Kraut.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

NCRA announces the winners of the 2017 CASE scholarships

Lisa Erickson

Lisa Erickson

The Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) has selected Lisa Erickson, a student at Prince Institute in Elmhurst, Ill., as the first-place winner of the 2017 CASE Scholarship. Maggie DeRocher, of Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Ia., earned second place, and Meredith Seymour of Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis. earned third place. The first-place winner will receive $1,500; second place, $1,000; and third place, $500.

“Words fail to adequately express just how blessed I am to have received this award,” says Erickson. “As a double-duty parent, so many odds are constantly stacked against me. What this means to me is a bright start to the future I dream for my family. Thank you to all who helped make this possible.”

“I’m so honored to be a recipient of the CASE scholarship,” DeRocher tells Up-to-Speed. “It’s great motivation to continue to constantly learn and grow in this great profession.”

Meredith Seymour, who has worked as an American Sign Language interpreter, says she is “humbled and thankful to be granted this scholarship, yet also honored to be given this opportunity to spread awareness on behalf of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

maggie derocher_cropped

Maggie DeRocher

As part of the application process, students submitted an original essay on the topic “Describe what the professions of court reporting and captioning are like today from your perspective. What do you think those professions will be like in the next ten years?”

All three winning essays focused on the growing demand for reporters and captioners as well as a positive outlook for the future. “I conclude that in ten years and beyond,” Erickson writes, “this remarkable field will continue to turn heads and strengthen the backbone of the community.” Erickson’s instructors rated her as “exceptional” and used words such as “stupendous,” “persistent,” and “committed” to describe her.

Meredith Seymour

Meredith Seymour

Another common theme among the essays was the effect that technology will play in the future of the court reporting and captioning professions. Seymour points out the shortcomings of digital audio recordings in courtroom settings: “Although once thought as a convenient and inexpensive route, [technology] has been continuing to prove how inadequate and untrustworthy it is a reporting device for the court system.”

DeRocher, on the other hand, sees social media as a way to share information within the community: “There is camaraderie, punctuation and grammar advice, suggestions how to handle different situations that arise in the profession, discussions of the newest technologies, and everything in between.”

Applicants were also required to be current students at an NCRA-approved court reporting program, hold student membership with NCRA, write between 140-180 wpm, and submit three recommendation forms, among other criteria.

Scholarship recipients will be formally announced at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. Visit the Student Resources page for more information about the CASE Scholarship and other scholarship opportunities.

Always go the extra mile — it’s never crowded up there

Runners wearing athletic apparal in a race down a narrow paved road with grass on either side

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexy Saltekoff

Practicing, staying motivated, meeting target speeds. Networking, handing out résumés, taking skills tests. Court reporting students have a lot on their minds. And getting ready to graduate adds another whole dimension to school life. Students reflect on the challenges they are leaving behind and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

Attending a court reporting program can sometimes be a lonely road, but students find the camaraderie of their classmates to be a good source of motivation. “The most difficult thing about being in school,” explains Sara Simoni, a student at Bryan University in Tempe, Ariz., “is that the people in your circle don’t quite understand what you’re going through. Even though you may explain what it’s like time and time again, they will never quite understand.” Perhaps friends and family may not be able to relate, but nearly 40 percent of students answering a poll in April’s issue of Up-to-Speed reported that their court reporting classmates are “a great source of inspiration.”

Ask just about any court reporting student what his or her biggest hurdle in school is and the answer is usually speed plateaus. Most students also agree on the way to overcome that hurdle: Put in more practice time. Students differ on the details, however. “Maybe instead of writing at only 20 wpm above my goal speed for 5+ minutes, I do short bursts of 40 or 60 wpm over,” says Lauren Mancusi, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

Simoni takes the opposite approach. “I would take a one-minute exercise and work it 20 wpm below my target speed … then bump it up in increments of 10 all the way up to 20 wpm above my target speed.’

Of course, there is more to staying motivated than just getting over speed plateaus. “The best tip for getting though school is to forget the bad days,” suggests Celeste Poppe, a recent graduate from Bryan University. “Cry for only an hour, and move on and keep going. It’s hard not to get swallowed up by the ‘I’m not getting it’ or ‘I’m stuck’ feelings, but you just have to keep your eyes on what’s in front of you and keep on stenoing.”

Simoni also says to focus on the positive. “The best tip for surviving school is to remember to reward yourself for even the smallest accomplishment. With all the tests you will fail during your court reporting school journey, you have to take time to celebrate even the smallest achievements.”

Focusing on the positive also means looking to the future. One of the best ways to get a jumpstart on a career is to start earning certifications, like the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) or the Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR), while still in school. The experience of regular testing, in addition to the wide range of resources available in the school environment, makes this the perfect time to take those tests. “I am currently a licensed California CSR and working as a freelance deposition reporter. I also obtained my RPR during the time I was waiting for my CA CSR results, having passed each leg on the first time starting with the 225 leg and ending with the Written Knowledge Test leg,” said Poppe. Simoni found her internship to be an invaluable experience in preparing for her certification. “I loved interning. I had friends who were officials at my local courthouse. They couldn’t wait for me to start my interning journey, and they placed me right in on a jury trial. It definitely uplifted my confidence as well. I remember passing one of my last 225 tests right after interning.” She is planning to begin her RPR testing as soon as possible.

Those last few months of school are also the best time to search for a job. Students suggest getting out of the classroom and into the courtroom. “I am currently job hunting!” Simoni announces. “I am handing out résumés, and I am sitting in court with my friends who are officials. I’m working on my professional wardrobe and trying to gather all the necessary things to help me succeed as a new reporter. I know networking is huge in our industry, and I can’t help but be overly excited to hand out my new business cards!” Mancusi and Poppe also recommend attending state association conventions and seminars as a way to network with working reporters who can connect them with jobs.

For some students, the last piece of the puzzle is graduating from court reporting school. Every student takes a different path through the wickets of dictation, speed tests, internships, and graduation requirements. Often, the trickiest thing about graduating may actually be the timing. “To me,” admits Mancusi, “the hardest part of being in school is trying to explain to others why I don’t know my exact graduation date.” When Up-to-Speed polled readers about how important it is for them to graduate from court reporting school quickly, about 34 percent replied that they had people depending on them to graduate as soon as possible. But an almost equal number responded that they had “set a goal to graduate by a certain date, but things may change.” The remaining students were split almost evenly between a determination to graduate by a certain date “no matter what” and the more laid-back approach of “I’m in no rush. It will come when it comes.” Lauren Mancusi is firmly in the “no matter what” camp: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”