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.

NCRA member gives back and gets back

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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.

Read more.

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.

Read more.

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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Disability on campus: ‘Deafness creates certain preconceived (and rather shallow) notions even to this day’

JCR logoOn May 17, Times Higher Education published its first of a series of stories about life on campus with a disability. Author Brenda Jo Brueggemann, professor and Aetna chair of writing at the University of Connecticut, addresses hearing loss and discusses her use of a realtime captioner.

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TechLinks: Protect yourself from ransomware

TechLinks_logoThe NCRA Technology Committee has gathered a few resources on the new WannaCry ransomware attack.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, shared an article from Gizmodo that provides basic information on the ransomware attack, including where and how it started. The article will be updated with new developments.

Nodland also shared tips for keeping yourself safe, written by the IT personnel for LNS Court Reporting & Captioning, Portland, Ore.

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, shared a TechConnect article on patches that Microsoft has published for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 8.

Finally, Nodland shared PCMag‘s best ransomware protection of 2017.

Convention keynote speaker will help you create magic at your fingertips

NCRA has announced that Steve Wyrick, known as the Daredevil Magician, will present a motivational speech during its Premier Session on Friday as part of the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 10-13 in Las Vegas, Nev. Wyrick’s speech will connect the themes of magic at your fingertips with the passion so many court reporters, captioners, and legal videographers have in the profession. Attendees should plan to “leave with the realization that the answers to each of our lives exist within the magic we all possess,” says Wyrick of the session.

Photo of Steve Wyrick (daredevil * magician * TV reality star) in front of a sports carWyrick, who is passionate about magic, explains: “Every person needs as much magic in their life as possible. I experience magic every day. In fact, magic is all around us if we just open our eyes and our hearts. I am fortunate enough to be able to share my secret with my audiences how to recognize the magic and little miracles that happen all around us every day.”

Wyrick is a Las Vegas icon and headline entertainer who has performed for kings, queens, and presidents. Throughout the years, Wyrick has won many awards in magic, including the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians. More recently, the International Magician’s Society, the largest magic organization in the world, bestowed on him the Merlin Award for “Magician of the Year.”

Wyrick’s appearance at the NCRA Convention seeks to help attendees find the magic in their own lives and help them visualize their dreams and make them reality. “I have always been able to visualize the impossible. I believe you must be able to see your dreams in order for them to become reality,” says Wyrick. “I’m excited to share a few simple secrets and beliefs that I have developed and utilized in my life over the years. This process can be followed and applied by anyone to pursue their dreams. It is possible to live your dream.”

The session promises to reinspire in attendees a passion for the profession, reminding them that they have the magic at their fingertips. “I have found that there are few things in life that are truly impossible to accomplish if you decide, dedicate, and choose to do them,” says Wyrick. “The most fulfilling reward is to see the look on the faces of people from 9 to 99 years old captivated by my magic and illusion through the power of compelling storytelling.”

The Premier Session will also feature the announcement of the winner of NCRA’s Distinguished Service Award and the installation of the 2017-2018 NCRA Board of Directors. Register now.