Our entire community working together

By Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC

NCRA President Sue Terry

The Sinclair Broadcast Group has announced that it will begin using IBM Watson Captioning, a form of automatic speech recognition, for their local television news stations. NCRA feels strongly that this decision is not in the best interests of the end consumer, and we are working diligently to do all we can to protect consumers and educate broadcasters as to the importance of quality captioning provided by a stenographic captioner.

This decision has alarmed everyone in our profession, but it is also serving as a catalyst to bring our association of professionals together to assist our deaf and hard-of-hearing community. This isn’t just about captioners and the effect that such a decision has on our work. Court reporters and captioners are not resistant to using technology to improve our lives; in fact, we are on the cutting edge of technology and are using the best platforms available to efficiently provide accurate court records and captions.

This decision is about the consumers: the millions of people in the United States who use captioning to absorb vital information, information that will now become garbled, untimely, lacking speaker designations, and often unintelligible, in addition to omitting sound effects, laughter, and music. While automatic speech recognition is evolving, it cannot match the expertise and skill of a trained and certified captioner. The deaf and hard-of-hearing community should have nothing less than full participation in programming. Using automation to disseminate vital information to millions of Americans who rely on accuracy in captioning is not only irresponsible, in our opinion, but potentially dangerous to the end users of our product: quality captioning.

NCRA’s Government Relations Department Manager, Matthew Barusch, is working with our NCRA Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee to handle this new development. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, we have full confidence in their work to address this, but we still need your help. Sign our petition urging Sinclair to change course. If you are in an area with a local Sinclair television news station that has transitioned to IBM Watson, watch the news and closely critique the captions. Enlist the help of your friends and family in doing the same. If you see the captioning is inaccurate, register your formal complaint with the FCC. With your help and our entire community working together, we can make a difference.

Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, is NCRA’s 2018-2019 President. She can be reached at president@ncra.org.

 

California ruling on independent contractor v. employee status has implications for court reporters and firms

By Matthew Barusch

Recently, the California Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court that will make it more difficult for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. This case established an “ABC test” for employers, creating a new standard in California that must be successfully applied for a worker to be classified as an independent contractor. Under the test, a worker is only properly considered an independent contractor if:

(A) They are “free from the control and direction” of the company that hired them when they perform their work.

(B) The work they perform falls “outside the usual course” of the hiring company’s business.

(C) They have their own independent business or trade beyond the job for which they were hired.

This ruling was opposed by the California business community, which is now lobbying the California Legislature to suspend the court ruling and address this issue. Organized labor claims this as a win for workers in an economic environment not friendly to labor. Regardless of the arguments of proponent and opponents of this ruling, it has established completely new legal precedent in California and could take years of litigation to sort through all the implications for many California workers, including professional court reporters and the firms that work with them.

A NATIONAL ISSUE

While this decision sent shock waves throughout California, the ABC test is not a new phenomenon in the states. New Jersey is another state that has instituted an ABC test to determine employment status. In 2010, New Jersey passed a law that exempted court reporters from being classified as employees. But in the wake of the debate around misclassification, this law is being challenged. As a result, freelance firms in the state of New Jersey are being targeted with audits in order to change employment status of court reporters. In May 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to create a task force to investigate employers who used independent contractors on the grounds that misclassification allows employers to avoid paying for employees’ taxes and benefits.

This issue is clearly picking up steam in the states. The ruling in the Dynamex case further establishes a precedent in the form of the ABC test that could conceivably be adopted by states examining misclassification.

IMPLICATIONS FOR REPORTERS AND FIRMS

So what would happen if you, as an independent contractor, were eventually to be reclassified as an employee of your firm? How would your compensation change? And why would anyone try to do that?

As the Dynamex case is the most recent example of this issue being addressed in the states, let’s use this as an example. Freelance reporters and court reporting firms in California must now examine their business relationships with each other and assess whether or not they meet the criteria set out by the ABC test. Court reporting firms and freelancers may find themselves having less flexibility in deciding who, when, and even where they want to work. This ruling may even create implications for reporters who contract with the California courts, as some of them have moved to changed their status to work on an as-necessary basis.

Another important issue that arises out of this debate is how or whether court reporters will be compensated for their transcripts. Transcripts take time to produce and can be a significant portion of a freelancer’s income. This has been seen as one of the motivating factors of opposition behind reclassification. Transcript income can be dubbed as ‘outside income’ by court administration; and because of their classification as independent contractors, court reporters are exempt from policies that prevent employees from doing work for ‘outside income’ during office hours. By being reclassified as an employee, freelancers may be prevented from working on transcripts during office hours, which, of course, is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

While no federal policy currently addresses this issue for freelancers, federal legislation addresses this issue for official court reporters as employees of the federal government. In 1995, Congress passed exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) called the Court Reporter Fair Labor Amendments Act that created an exemption from FLSA requirements for official court reporters for time spent on transcript preparation. This law was meant to allow officials to keep their transcript income by giving up overtime if those extra hours were used on transcript preparation. Unfortunately, this law does not govern the freelance sector. The language was very specific and pertained only to official court reporters. However, some states continue to argue that misclassification indeed violates federal law. In May 2018, the same month New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy created his task force, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joined 11 other state Attorneys General in a legal brief urging the National Labor Relations Board to rule that misclassification violates federal labor laws.

For now, it is unclear how this will play out in the federal or state governments. Misclassification can change the way that reporters are compensated for their work, which can threaten a reporter’s livelihood. At the end of the day, it should be up to you, the court reporter, and the firms you do business with as to which situation best suits your need. The National Court Reporters Association is committed to supporting our members’ freedom to decide what business relationship they wish to pursue, based on their own assessment of what is most suitable for their situation. Efforts to address misclassification may be well-intentioned but may have unintended consequences for the court reporting profession that could see court reporters working less and being paid less for their work.

Matthew Barusch is NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations. He can be reached at  mbarusch@ncra.org.

This material is intended  for general information purposes only and should not be considered as if it were legal advice.

Complete Coverage of the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo

Explore coverage of the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La., with the stories below.

Awards and scholarships

Information about voting

Special events

Media

10 reasons I love my career as a court reporter

The intention of this article is not to convince you to become a court reporter or that court reporting is a great career. My intention is just to share with you some points about what has made court reporting a great profession for me. Here are the top 10 things I love about being a court reporter:

1. Recession-proof, high-demand career
From the moment I graduated from court reporting school and was licensed as a certified shorthand reporter, I have never experienced a day without working that I didn’t want to work. In these tough economic times, it’s easy to see why I’ve listed this one first. The best recession-proof jobs are those that are least sensitive to economic downturn and have the highest combined scores for pay, projected workforce growth, and number of openings. In my experience, a recession-proof job is one that remains in high demand even through a bad economy. Though no career is entirely recession-proof, court reporting is more constant than most others when times are hard.

Several elements create the high demand for court reporters. First, there is an increased demand in the legal field. Crime tends to rise dramatically when people feel desperate and experience serious financial problems, so the number of court cases increase. Civil disputes also reach a boiling point, resulting in more civil litigation when times are tough.

Despite the state budget cuts that resulted in the layoff of hundreds of court reporters in California in the last several years, some counties decided to privatize the court reporting duties in civil courtrooms, meaning that court reporters still ended up going to work in civil courtrooms, but they get paid directly from attorneys or agencies instead of from the county. As a result, there was no loss in court reporting jobs; it actually created new job opportunities for freelancers who never worked in court before. It’s anticipated that more and more counties will follow this lead and begin to privatize the reporters in civil courtrooms throughout California and the rest of the country, which will lead to a significant projected workforce growth.

Second, there is an increase in demand in other industries that require realtime court reporters to provide transcriptions or captioning of conferences, seminars, video, and television. The growing number of fields that require stenographers includes television, sports, politics, business, medicine, and many more. According to research conducted by Ducker Worldwide in 2013, which was commissioned by NCRA, more than 5,500 new court reporting jobs are anticipated across the U.S. by 2018 due to significant retirement rates. The median age of working court reporters is 51 years old and more than 70 percent of the court reporting population is over 46 years old.

2. High income potential
The salary of a court reporter is heavily dependent on geography. A court reporter’s income can also depend upon their certifications and services provided. A reporter who provides realtime translation services can make more than one who doesn’t. Los Angeles and New York freelance court reporters can average about $100,000 a year, while the national average is around $46,000 a year. Keep in mind that many reporters prefer to work part-time, so that drives the national average income down. I know several reporters who make $225k to $300k per year consistently. I also know of one who makes close to $600k per year consistently. The sky is the limit if you’re willing to work hard and be a top-notch reporter.

Salaries of official court reporters are public information and can be easily found online, although transcript information is not public information. Many busy official reporters will tell you that their transcript incomes can be just as much as or double their annual salary. An official court reporter position in Riverside County Superior Court in California pays $108k per year, or $52/hour. An annual salary for an official court reporter in Cobb County, Ga., is $41,614.02 to $66,583.24, or $32.01/hour, plus transcript fees. There are also official court reporter positions in federal court. The salary for an official court reporter in the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, is $87,770 to $100,936 plus transcript fees. Those are examples of just a few of the recently advertised official positions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate for court reporting salaries is expected to increase by 14 percent through the year 2020. This is one profession where talk is translating to tangible long-term loot.

3. Variety of settings
Interesting job content is one of the top ten factors for employee happiness on the job according to a recent study from Boston Consulting Group, which surveyed more than 200,000 people around the world. Court reporting offers such a huge variety of subject matter that it makes it one of the most interesting professions. Court reporters travel from job to job or courtroom to courtroom and go from case to case. Every case is different, and we’re usually learning so much from highly educated people who look at us with wonder and amazement at what we do. We can go from a transvaginal mesh class action case yesterday to a human trafficking case today to a mesothelioma asbestos case tomorrow. Reporters who have three and four decades of experience frequently comment on how even they learn something new every day. The amount of learning of new subject matters is endless.

The variety of job settings in court reporting is staggering.

Our views usually change with each job, and so do the attorneys we’re working with. We can be on the 43rd floor of a high-rise in downtown or a wealthy law firm with a view of the ocean in Newport Beach or Santa Monica or in a courtroom in any number of locations or outdoors on a mountaintop in the Hollywood Hills. Sometimes we’re surprised to be sitting in the same room with a celebrity. I’ve had many celebrities in my courtroom as parties and as jurors, who shall remain nameless.

The best part is that we can edit our jobs from anywhere in the world. We can work on our laptops on a beach in Hawaii with our toes in the sand and an ocean view of the Pacific Ocean. If you want to pack up and leave your hometown, it’s extremely easy to find a job across the United States. If you want to stay local, that’s easy, too. Also, we can take jobs anywhere in the world. There are so many international travel opportunities in this profession if you’ve got your passport and a desire to see the world. Whether you are looking for jobs close to home, to move across the country, or for opportunities to travel, the possibilities are endless!

There is also a lot of opportunity for CART and captioning work. CART stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation. It is verbatim text of spoken presentations provided for live events. Only the text is provided on a computer screen or projected for display on a larger screen. CART may be provided in the classroom, at meetings, workshops, and other presentations, including live theater – anywhere that someone with a hearing loss needs to hear in a group setting. Early in my my career, I took on a couple of CART assignments where I was assisting a person who was hard of hearing on a college campus. I would attend his classes with him and provide him a screen of my realtime so he could read along. Reporters can also choose to do captioning from their own home offices.

Captioning is the text of the audio portion of a video or film displayed directly on the video or film, often on the bottom of the screen. This may include not only the words, but the sounds that are important to understand and the source of the sound. Reporters can caption the news from their home office or they can report live from the sporting event, corporate meeting, or other presentation.

The greatest thing about the variety of settings is that you will never get completely burned out with your career. You may get burned out with your current job, but there are so many different types of settings to work in that you can switch gears to keep it interesting. Burned out in court? Switch to captioning the TV news from home. Those couldn’t be more different. There are lots of possibilities!

4. Longevity
The profession of stenography stems from man’s desire and his necessity to preserve the happenings of yesterday and today for tomorrow. It was born with the rise of civilization in ancient Greece. Ancient scribes once used shorthand to record speeches of politicians, philosophers, and other public speakers in Judea, Persia, and the Roman Empire. Abraham Lincoln entrusted a stenographer to record the Emancipation Proclamation. A stenographer was commissioned to be with Roosevelt at Yalta, Eisenhower on D-Day, and MacArthur at Tokyo. Today, we sit in the White House, the United States Congress, and District and Superior Courts, and we also work in a variety of locations. Stenography is one of the oldest professions and will be around well into the future.

With variety comes a nice long run in a career that offers longevity. One of my dearest court reporting friends has been working as a court reporter since 1970. She’s been an official, a freelance reporter, and an agency owner. After 47 years, she’s still working full time and has plans to never, ever retire. She will just keep reporting until she can’t. Many court reporters have enjoyed several decades-long careers in this profession and plan to work well into their retirements. Most people face the challenge of transitioning to new careers at least two to three times in their lifetime. Longevity in court reporting is possible because of the variety of jobs where there is ample opportunity to remake your career without having to start from scratch.

Technology has come a long way in the last 20 years, but it still has a long way to go before it will be a threat to the profession of court reporting. The experimentation with replacing human court reporters with audio recording has failed time and again. It’s analogous to replacing all language interpreters with translation software. It seems ridiculous because everyone knows the complexities of their jobs. However, court reporting is largely a mystery to the attorneys and judges that work with them and even more of a mystery to a financial analyst who is facing budget restraints. The truth is, court reporters are tasked with the protection of the record. Court reporters use extremely sophisticated technology to create a record using machine shorthand, and it is a process that takes an average of three years to master.

A few of the things a human court reporter can do that digital recording can’t are: capture testimony at 99 percent or greater accuracy, handle multiple speakers at the same time, identify speakers, understand different accents and dialects, create an immediate draft transcript, create a same-day or next-day final transcript, mark exhibits, swear witnesses, and stop a proceeding for clarification due to an accent or soft-spoken witness, or ask for a repeat because a door slammed or other noise cut out the speaker. Human court reporters are champions, and there is no contest in the creation and preservation of the official record at trial or a deposition.

Even if voice recognition technology evolves to a level of near perfection, it can still never replace the human court reporter because it lacks the ability to control and protect the record and do the human aspects of the job.

5. The people
Humans are social creatures, and Gallup’s research has found that people who have a “best friend” at work are more productive and engaged. My best friend and the matron of honor at my wedding years ago is a court reporter. We met when we both got hired at superior court almost a decade ago. When reporters run into each other out at a job location, there’s an instant connection. Nobody understands us like another reporter. The network of court reporters is perhaps a stronger bond than in any other industry. Nothing illustrates that more than a quick search on Facebook where you’ll see hundreds of groups for court reporters, whether it be Court Reporters Who Love to Cook, Court Reporters and Their Fur Babies, or Why I Love Court Reporting. It is a small world, and every reporter is connected in some way to another reporter or knows about other reporters.

Court reporters are quick to help out a fellow reporter, whether it be mentoring someone, having someone sit out with us to get their apprentice hours, borrowing equipment, or offering tech support. Someone is always there, even at 3:30 a.m., to lend a hand or an ear, at least via social media.

In a study conducted by TINYpulse of more than 40,000 people at 300 companies across the globe, they found that the number one reason cited for loving a job was coworkers, because of the people they work with. I know many, many court reporters who have had their assignment in a courtroom for decades, and their coworkers — which include the judge, the bailiff, and the clerk — are like family to them.

The third group of people that we work with on a daily basis consists of the attorneys and witnesses. I love the fact that almost every day I get to meet and work with some of the best legal minds in the industry and listen to the testimony of experts from a variety of industries who are the best in their field and went to the top schools in the world.

6. Flexible Working Hours
Whether you are a working parent or just want to have a flexible job, court reporting may be the field for you. I know court reporters who work just two or three days a week. Working part-time as a court reporter is common and easily attainable if you are looking for a nice balance between your professional and personal life. Another court reporter can easily pick up where you left off in a trial, arbitration, or multi-day deposition. If you’re in a daily trial, you can easily take a day off to attend your doctor’s appointment or child’s school play, and your coworker can step in and cover for you with no problems. Freelance reporters are able to schedule a short one-hour workers’ comp depo or an all-day video deposition with agencies. If you need to take the day off, then you can simply tell the agency you’re not available for work that day.

I currently work in a courthouse with set hours every day, but I do know of other officials who job share with another reporter. They alternate either the days or the weeks. One reporter works three days one week and two days the next and they alternate, or they alternate entire weeks, so one week on, one week off. They share an office, so combined, they make up one full-time reporter.

7. Mastery
Happy people tend to be successful at work, but surprisingly it’s not your success that causes you to be happy; it’s your being happy that tends to cause your success. Research has identified three factors that make us happy at work: mastery, purpose, and autonomy.

Research finds that people are happiest when engaged in difficult-but-doable activities; that is, activities that involve our being so absorbed in our tasks that time seems to stand still and produce flow. Flow is the state reached when we are so immersed in an activity that we cease to notice the passage of time and have deep, effortless involvement. Time seems to stop. Our happiness is greatest at such times.

When I’m on the job reporting, I’m in “the zone,” like a mystical ecstatic state. It is this full involvement in flow, rather than happiness achieved from sensory pleasures, that makes for excellence in life. It produces deep, long-lasting satisfaction, rather than temporary cheerfulness.

Every day, I am improving as a court reporter. Every day, I’m enjoying what I’m doing, and I don’t want it to finish. Every day involves a challenge where I am stretching my mind and my body. I’m adding words to my dictionary, or I’m writing faster, adding briefs, or I’m exposed to new subject matters. My software has a scorekeeper at the bottom of my laptop screen that tells me in a percentage how well I’m writing. It’s much like playing a video game where I’m constantly trying to improve my score. When things get tough, effort and discipline are required, which helps me to learn to persist. Each challenging job assignment makes me a better reporter, so I thrive on those experiences. My brain is fed with constantly changing positive experiences that prevent the hedonic treadmill from turning.

There are certifications galore. Through the National Court Reporters Association, you can earn your RPR, RMR, RDR, CRR, and CRC certifications and more. The California Deposition Reporters Association has a CCRR certification you can earn as well. The United States Court Reporters Association has an FCRR certification that you can achieve. Then there are speed contests for all three of those organizations that you can enter. There are continuing education opportunities with the superior court and with all of the state and national organizations. There is no limit to what you can achieve in this profession.

8. Purpose
The International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration published a study which discusses how core job characteristics, such as task significance, have important effects on various critical psychological states. It went on to define task significance as the degree to which the job has a substantial impact on the lives of other people. Task significance is one of the five core characteristics of a job that contributes to the experience of meaningfulness at work, which leads to high internal work motivation and high job satisfaction.

Many attorneys and judges have started proceedings by introducing the court reporter as the most important person in the room.

Court reporters have the mission to protect and preserve the record. We preserve the record for appeal, usually the final decision for a case. If there is no court reporter to make a record, attorneys will have to create a stipulated statement of the case to be submitted on appeal.

In Los Angeles County, several of the civil judges required attorneys to prepare a stipulated statement after each day of trial if they chose not to have a reporter. The attorneys usually decided to hire a reporter, rather than burden themselves with extra work during trial. And you can imagine if parties weren’t able to settle their case by the time of trial, getting a stipulation of the attorneys would be an almost impossible task in itself. In felony courtrooms, there is always a reporter to make a record.

I worked on a four-week trial that was overturned on appeal, and I ran into one of the attorneys being interviewed by a major news network outside the courthouse. He caught up to me after the interview and thanked me for my work on his trial preparing daily transcripts and then producing the huge appeal. He said without my transcripts, he wouldn’t have won his case on appeal. The other day, I got a voicemail from an attorney thanking me for a rough draft of his proceedings that he used to prepare his motion. He said he couldn’t have done it without my transcript and thanked me profusely. In another example, in the trial I reported last week, the judge had to refer to my realtime several times in order to make his ruling on objections. And just this morning, a clerk asked me for a judge’s ruling, so I copied and pasted that portion of the transcript to him in an email right away so he could prepare his minute order. We’re constantly reminded of our importance and the role we play in ensuring justice is meted out, and we’re highly valued by attorneys and judges and clerks.

America is a society based on law and justice. I love the fact that I have a role in making this ideal a reality, however small. With two hands, 24 keys, and 225+ words per minute, the impact as a court reporter is limitless.

9. Autonomy
One meta-analysis involving more than 400,000 people in 63 countries found that autonomy and control over one’s life matter more to happiness than money. Autonomy is the degree to which a job provides substantial freedom, independence, and discretion to the individual in scheduling the work and in determining the procedures to be used in doing the work.

Luckily for court reporters, we have a sense of control over our work and over our time too. As a freelancer, I am self-employed and my own boss. I am free to turn down work or take a day off without answering to anyone. I also have control over subcontracting work to proofreaders and scopists. As an official court reporter, even though there are supervisors and managers in my department, I don’t have to answer to a boss. I don’t have annual reviews where someone can critique my work. I have the freedom to do my job without being micromanaged or questioned about decisions I make. My transcripts are handled on an independent contractor status and are not under the purview of the court. I have the ability to control what services I offer and don’t offer to attorneys. And I have the freedom to choose what assignments I get by trying out for courtrooms I want to work in or to float, as I’ve chosen to do. For these reasons, autonomy is on the list of things I love about court reporting.

10. Residual income opportunity
One of the main reasons I chose this profession is for the residual or recurring income opportunity. Who doesn’t love to earn money while not working, right? Once we report a matter, we can continue to get paid for the work for months and years after it’s done. It’s analogous to earning royalties from intellectual property such as books and patents. The record we make is considered our work product. If anyone wants a copy of it, we make money again and again.

Salary jobs are part of linear income. This income is directly related to the number of hours you work. If you work 40 hours, you get paid for 40 hours of work. Official court reporters earn a salary plus transcript income. Some freelance reporters will earn a per diem for the time that they are at a location or just to show up. Our transcript income allows us to continue to make money while doing other things, such as accepting more assignments or taking a day off and going to Disneyland with our family. We can be on the record five days a week and work on transcripts during the evenings and weekends, or we can hire a scopist to help produce the transcripts while we continue to take jobs and keep writing on our machines.

After we produce an original transcript and the copy orders at the time of the job, we can earn money for the transcript again at the time of appeal, which happens in the years following the matter we reported. I have a couple of death penalty cases that I reported that will continue to appeal for the rest of their lives. This is a passive income that I don’t have to personally market or interact with the business in any way. All I have to do is wait for the appeal and deposit the check.

Recently, I was able to take eight months off for maternity leave because I had a steady flow of appeals coming in that I had already produced the transcript at the time of trial and turned them in, then deposited the checks. I made money while staying at home with my newborn baby. This was ideal.

Of course, before the money starts rolling in as a court reporter, you will have to put a lot of time, money, and effort into going to an NCRA-approved court reporting program. You’ll need a lot of patience and determination to see the high income in the future.

Instant gratification is not possible when it comes to being a court reporter, but the rewards are limitless.

Cassandra Caldarella is a freelancer and agency owner based in Santa Ana, Calif. She can be reached at cassarella11@hotmail.com.

One time in New Orleans: A local’s guide to the city

New Orleans is celebrating its tricentennial in 2018 with the theme of “One time in New Orleans…” where they are asking visitors and locals to share their stories about New Orleans. NCRA Board Member Max Curry shares his story about what he loves about the city, his favorite restaurants and watering holes, activities to do, and invites everyone to come experience New Orleans for themselves during Convention. Max has many, many suggestions on how you can Write Your Own Story in NOLA!

By Max Curry

My family is rich with the tradition and culture of our beloved profession. My sister Betty and I are both court reporters, and my niece Melissa is currently training to become a reporter. Anytime my family gets together, they know there are the obligatory discussions of court reporting, current cases we are working on, and new technology and writing techniques. However, long before knowing this profession, we were steeped deep in the culture of our environment and home, New Orleans and South Louisiana, a.k.a. French Acadiana.

To be from South Louisiana and/or NOLA is to know a deep love of family, food, socializing (it’s where I get it from), parties, Mardi Gras, amazing food, amazing drinks, strong friendships, deep spirituality, and a love of nature. My sisters and I all have the commonality of nature and gardening in our blood — a love of flowers, useful plants, vegetable gardens, beautiful yards, Louisiana courtyards, and accessories for such! Think Steel Magnolias + one brother, and you’ll get the picture! Note: It is part of the reason I have thick skin and a quick wit.

The number one thing for a party or backyard cookout for NOLA, but especially Acadiana, is to never ever run out of food! You will never go hungry at a Louisiana party or cookout. The food is amazing and a competition among everyone as to who has the best recipes! “God bless your heart, but my grandmother’s brother’s recipe for jambalaya is much better.” You can say anything you want in the South (especially Louisiana) as long as it is prefaced with “God bless your heart…”

I’ve asked family and South Louisiana friends (loosely translated to family as well) to share one or two of their individual loves of NOLA and South Louisiana, what they each want you to experience for yourself or learn about us and our culture while our guests in August, and I’ve incorporated those thoughts into this article. Get ready, ’cause everybody had strong opinions and a lot to share. So here goes!

The common thread everyone touched on is our culture! It is a unique, distinguished culture steeped in proudly being Louisiana Southerners. When people ask me what I love about NOLA, my immediate answer is that it is the only place in the continental U.S. I have been that feels like I have left the U.S. and gone to Europe. Standing in a street in the Quarter, you know exactly where you are, and it feels very different than anywhere else. There is an open-minded vibe for you to just be who you are, to love and celebrate your life, and to let your hair and guard down, breathe, and relax. You can do what we were meant to do, celebrate life and enjoy living. When the stresses of our profession become too much, I occasionally go for a massage; but more often than not, I just plan a long weekend and take off (like right this moment to write this article) and head home to my Lady and relax. If you want and/or need to unplug, recharge, and get your mojo back, you just found it: It’s NOLA!

Read Max’s recommendations for cultural experiences in NOLA and/or South Louisiana.

Read Max’s restaurant recommendations for New Orleans.

Read Max’s favorite bars, hangouts, and dance clubs in New Orleans.

Read Max’s miscellaneous things to know and fun things to do.

I know Convention can be an expensive investment between the travel arrangements, hotel, event registration, fun events, etc., but convention is a lot more than just getting CEUs. It is an opportunity to further develop your circle of connections in the reporting community — to network and develop those connections that might just yield work you wouldn’t have known about or had access to otherwise. It is also an opportunity to grow and challenge yourself as a reporter through introduction of the latest and greatest technology and writing techniques that may just be the thing to help up your game to the next level. It certainly has mine!

I hope you will join us in August as my Beautiful Lady, New Orleans, hosts court reporters from around the world as NCRA prepares to offer an incredible educational and networking experience, all while in a city known for her parties, amazing food and drinks, but ultimately a relaxing escape from the realities of life! If you need a getaway to relax and recharge, I hope you will escape with NCRA in August and find yourself again in NOLA!

Max Curry, RPR, CRI, is a freelancer, official, and agency owner in Franklin, Tenn. He is also on NCRA’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at max@elitereportingservices.com.

Register now.

 

You never know where the job might take you

Tiffany Treffeisen, RPR, is ready for anything, including on-site trials in the Florida sun!

While working for Orange Legal in Tavares, Fla., Tiffany Treffeisen, RPR, and Lisa Shuman, RPR, shared reporting duties on an eminent domain case earlier this year. When they heard more about the proceedings, they learned that the parties agreed a view of the site – the house and road – would be beneficial to the jury in making its decision. The jury would then be able to see the boundary lines, home, and property lines that had been discussed the previous few days.

Treffeisen, who is also certified in Florida, has been reporting for 20 years in the Fifth Circuit and surrounding counties in Central Florida. Shuman has also been reporting for 20 years throughout Central Florida.

JCR | Did you know when you were assigned that something different was going to happen with this case?

Treffeisen | I was not aware when I accepted the assignment that it would include a site visit, but I learned about it on the first day of trial. Then we just had to wait and see whether it was going to be Lisa or I who was the lucky one to be the reporter, depending on which day they decided to make the trip.

Shuman | Tiffany and I split the trial, and we had heard that Thursday there would be a site visit. They wanted to move it to Friday, but it was supposed to rain, so she was the lucky one. The job I was on that day canceled, so I wanted to go along for the ride to see how it’s done for next time! And also see the road and the house!

JCR | What was the experience like? Did you have any challenges?

Shuman | It was an eminent domain trial for some property in Lake County that was taken by the Department of Transportation for the Wekiva Parkway. I had done a couple things in the case, but was very familiar with the location. I used to use the road every day and it’s being moved due to the Wekiva Protection Act. They wanted the judge and jury to see the land that was taken so they could get the market value for it.

Treffeisen | When I was talking with the attorneys about how the site view was going to take place, they informed me that we (judge, jury, attorneys, bailiff, clerk, and myself) would be taking a transit-type bus to the active construction site and that we would be getting off in several locations and that the surveyor would be testifying as to boundary locations. They advised that we would then be going to the property owners’ home and touring their house and the farm. They also assured me they would make sure I understood when to be on the record.

With the construction of the road already starting, it was a great opportunity for the jury to be able to see exactly where the road was being constructed on the property and how it was affecting the property owners.

The attorneys had also suggested I bring my own chair so I would have some place to sit while taking the testimony. So I loaded up a folding chair that morning and took it with me. I certainly got some strange looks and questions from the security station about why I needed to bring a chair into the courthouse with me.

Thankfully Lisa was there to assist me with the chair so I didn’t have to juggle my machine and the chair while getting on and off the bus; however, the judge often grabbed my chair and scolded the younger male attorneys for not being gentlemen and getting the chair for me. One of the younger attorneys took his cue and began to assist. The judge got a laugh out of “educating” young men on being proper gentlemen.

At each of the five stops, everyone exited the bus onto the road that was being constructed, which was currently lime rock, and gathered around the surveyor for him to show the jury where they were standing in relation to the maps that they had been shown all week. I think the biggest challenge of the day became the wind. It made it difficult to hear the soft-spoken surveyor while he was testifying as to the boundary lines at our stops. It was also super frustrating to have my hair blowing all over my face while trying to write. Fortunately, we were not outside taking testimony for very long, though. And when we arrived at the home and farm, the attorneys said there would be no testimony taken there.

JCR | How long were you out in the field?

Shuman | We were on site for about an hour. We stopped at five stops in various locations on the road, and then we viewed their actual house, stable, and land. There was 434 acres before the taking and 230 after, so it was to see the effect it had on their land and wildlife.

Treffeisen | We were gone for a total of around two hours – but, technically, outside and reporting, probably less than 20 minutes.  The judge gave the jury a half hour to view the house and farm portion, and then we headed back to the courthouse to finish out the day with more witness testimony.

JCR | Anything else you can tell us about what happened?

Shuman | The trial finished the next day. The jury deliberated for 1.5 hours and came back with a $4.9 million verdict!

Treffeisen | It was a pretty laid-back field trip, and it was great to get out of the courtroom for a few hours. The attorneys and the judge were all super nice and were very accommodating to me; making sure that I had everything I needed. Really, the entire trial was like that for Lisa and me. They were a great group to work with.

Overcoming challenges: An interview with Kim Falgiani

Kim Falgiani, RMR, CRC

Kim Falgiani, RMR, CRC, became a court reporter in 1980 and then became a broadcast captioner in 2002. After some years in broadcast captioning, she went through a series of medical situations, including tendinitis, that derailed her career and nearly ended it. She shared her story of how she overcame these challenges and offered some advice for reporters and captioners to stay at the physical top of their game.

JCR | What challenge have you overcome to be a successful captioner?

FALGIANI | Captioners must overcome many challenges in their careers. Longevity, professional fulfillment, and reasonable compensation are the goals. Everyone wants to be paid what they’re worth.

The obvious answer, which is true for every successful captioner, is the transition into quality realtime writing, staying relevant and updated in the profession, and keeping up with new technology. For me, the most difficult obstacle I had to overcome was tendinitis. Rehabilitation was a long-term process. Ultimately, I had to:

  • complete rehab successfully
  • regain my speed and confidence
  • regain my certifications
  • upgrade my software, paying back
    software support
  • upgrade my computer system and phones
  • renew my referral sources to find jobs as
    an independent contractor

JCR | How did this challenge make captioning difficult for you?

FALGIANI | The solution for tendinitis is rest, so I could no longer write. Recovery time surely varies, but it may stretch into months; it took me 14 months of rehabilitation to recover from bilateral wrist tendinitis, bilateral elbow tendinitis, shoulder tendinitis, adhesive capsulitis, and a strained neck. Within a few months of slowly beginning to write again, as an independent contractor now instead of an employed broadcast captioner, I suffered a dislocated shoulder and spiral-fractured my upper humerus. I chose a nonsurgical route with that break, so the rehab was a bit longer.

JCR | What strategies or changes did you use to overcome this challenge?

FALGIANI | I needed to find a way to stay informed and relevant in the profession. At that point in time, I had 30 years of progressing through our field as an official, freelancer, business owner, and then a broadcast captioner. I looked for a way to offer my skills without writing. I consulted on captioning programs, advisory committees, anything to not lose the “pulse” of the captioning field.

Everything I did while rehabbing led to me becoming a better and more health-conscious writer. I say better writer because I was always very stroke-intensive, so I began to incorporate writing techniques that reduced my stroke counts, better theory, and things like that.

Instead of captioning, or any writing at all, I started looking into how to help educate future court reporters and captioners. Fortunately, I was hired to be part-time adjunct faculty in a court reporting program in my state during healing time. After about another year of rehab, I began to edit realtime files for quarterly financial reports and rebuild some speed and endurance by writing offline files for projects, such as tutorial videos, etc.

Dealing specifically with my injuries, I took the advice and relied upon my doctor’s and physical therapists’ forms of rehab, but I also changed my diet to help keep inflammation away. This included juicing; finding suggested natural remedies, such as ginger, turmeric, and pineapple; and learning what foods are best. I started using wrist supports and support gloves. I avoided heavy lifting; anything that required any movement of my wrists or elbows now was a conscious thought. I paid attention to what foods really did make my fingers or wrists seem achy!

I found better ergonomic setups, such as monitors that didn’t make me tilt my head back but were more at eye level; I tried to be aware of sitting up straight! I switched from a traditional steno machine to the Lightspeed, but I was too far gone with the traditional touch to adjust to that, so the Luminex is what became right for me. The tilt and the touch on that is fantastic — I can position that machine where it is comfortable for me, and I don’t get that familiar wrist pain.

JCR | Did you receive any outside support in overcoming this challenge?
FALGIANI | I went into physical therapy three times a week for well over a year, before having to re-enter therapy just months later after my dislocated shoulder and broken arm.

As mentioned, I was able to become involved in a court reporting and captioning program as adjunct faculty. And the faculty was kind and patient. I had all the years of knowledge in my head, but they had the knowledge about how to help me express that in a classroom format. Kudos to our schools for educating our future writers!

I would love to name colleagues who helped me through this difficult time, but I fear I might miss someone and I don’t want to do that. But to my colleagues who stayed in contact, those who pared down my schedule, or hired me knowing I wouldn’t offer more than a few hours a week and then increasing my hours as I became stronger, I am forever grateful. To our community that helped me transition into remote and on-site CART captioning and internet and online broadcast captioning, I am so happy I found this part of captioning — thank you.

And as always, my husband, John, who has always been my biggest supporter, and our children. Without their support of taking over household chores, cooking, cleaning, listening to my frustrations, encouraging me to persevere, I could have easily faded out of the profession. Thank you for that never-ending support.

JCR | What advice do you have for someone else struggling with this particular challenge?

FALGIANI | Captioning is an investment in your future self, and tendinitis is a possible reality from all those hours at a desk and on a machine, so there are many things:

  • Stay healthy: If you are having pain in your wrists, arms, seek medical advice. Don’t let this get to a point that your career is in jeopardy. Use preventative measures. Learn what sorts of foods have anti-inflammatory properties. Drink plenty of water. Follow a healthy lifestyle.
  • Exercise: With so many hours spent at your desk, you need to be conscious of really stretching, getting up, and moving. Have a daily exercise routine, whether it is walking, yoga, biking.
  • Ergonomics: Assess your workspace ergonomically: the height of your monitors, the chair you sit in, your mouse, and your keyboard.
  • Stay informed and educated: If you must take time off for any sort of recovery, stay informed by reading articles, volunteering your time to our students, joining focus groups or committees, getting involved with the Deaf/hard-of-hearing communities as advocates, etc. Continue to earn your Continuing Education Units to ensure your certifications don’t lapse. (Retraining your mind to take Q&A testimony after strictly captioning can be a task for some reason!) Don’t let the ever-changing technology get ahead of you.
  • Avoid injury: Be smart about your activities, and try to avoid risky behavior.

But mostly, for me, after resuming a captioning schedule, it was more of a reduction in hours and/or the way my hours are spread out. There is always the question of employee vs. independent contractor. Independent contracting is allowing me to control my schedule so it works best for me.

JCR | Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

FALGIANI | Sitting all day can be a health issue, as well as the repetitive motion, so educate yourself on short exercise routines to do at your desk or in your surroundings, or just using a few extra minutes to stand up instead of sitting and waiting, if appropriate. Find your niche with either yoga, stretch bands, walking, something to keep you active. It is really easy to find information on things like one-minute workout routines, or seven 60-second moves, things like that. I haven’t tried a stand-up desk, but I have read that some really love that sort of thing.

When your shift for the day is done, make that stretching, at least, a part of your shutdown routine. And don’t get caught up in one form of captioning. With the forward march of technology, there are so many captioning opportunities. If you are able, keep a variety of jobs in your schedule just to help break up very difficult routines, and try not to work ten-day weeks.

Kim Falgiani, RMR, CRC, is a captioner in Warren, Ohio. She can be reached at kfalgiani@gmail.com.

 

NCRA Launches Online A to Z Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand Program

NCRA launched an online version of its popular NCRA A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program on March 30, increasing the accessibility of the free six-week course to interested participants. The program provides the opportunity for participants to learn the alphabet in steno, write on a real steno machine, and decide whether an education in court reporting or captioning is for them.

The NCRA A to Z online program is a hybrid course combining both live online instructor sessions with videos and dictation materials for self-paced practice. The class meets online live once a week for 60-90 minutes.

“The online NCRA A to Z Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program complements NCRA’s popular onsite program,” said Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA’s Senior Director, Education and Certification.

“The virtual program provides the opportunity for those who do not have access to an onsite program to experience it online. The self-guided curriculum is easy to follow and has been designed to let participants learn the basics of steno writing. With the increase of online education, NCRA felt strongly that the NCRA A to Z program would be a natural fit to an online method of learning.”

Students who sign up for the online NCRA A to Z program can lease a steno machine for $50 for the duration of the course from NCRA partners Stenograph and ProCat. Students will also need a computer (camera is optional), microphone, and headphones or earbuds.

Students interested in the NCRA A to Z online program can sign up for sessions in their time zone. April 16 is the deadline to register for the first program that begins on the dates below.

  • Monday, April 23 at 6:30 PM ET
  • Tuesday, April 24 at 6:00 PM MT
  • Thursday, April 26 at 8:00 PM CT
  • Thursday, April 26 at 6:00 PM PT

“NCRA wants to thank its program partners, Stenograph and ProCAT, for assisting with the success of the NCRA A to Z Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand by helping to make machines available at little cost to program participants,” said Marcia Ferranto, NCRA Executive Director and CEO.

“NCRA would also like to thank The Varallo Group, Worcester, Mass., especially Cedar Bushong, CLVS, and Patrick Blaskopf, CLVS, for their work with the online dictation, and the College of Court Reporting, Hobart, Ind., for its support in helping to make the online program a reality with the use of their learning management platform Moodle,” Ferranto added.

The Association also sends a huge thank you to the members of its A to Z Task Force who include: Chair Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRR, Worcester, Mass.; Mary Bader, RPR, Eau Claire, Wis.; Huey Bang, RMR, CRR, Pass Christian, Miss.; Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, Parma, Ohio; Jeff Moody, Valparaiso, Ind.;  Kelly Moranz, CRI, Parma, Ohio; Jonathan Moretti, CLVS, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Kathleen Silva, RPR, CRR,  Andover, Mass.; Doreen Sutton, RPR, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Stacy Drohosky, RPR, CRR, CRI, Hammond, Ind.; Lynette Eggers, CRI, CPE, Chicago, Ill.; and Eileen Beltz, CRI, CPE, Avon, Ohio.

“Together, NCRA and its partners and member volunteers are committed to increasing the number of students entering court reporting and captioning programs to help fill the growing number of jobs in these fields,” Ferranto said.

NCRA launched its onsite NCRA A to Z program in February 2017 in conjunction with Court Reporting & Captioning Week. Volunteer NCRA members serve as program leaders working with small groups of participants as they learn how to write the alphabet in steno. The program does not follow any particular theory. NCRA provides program leaders with free training materials after completing and submitting a program leader Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). There are onsite programs currently available in approximately 15 states.

NCRA is currently seeking 10 to 12 member volunteers with online teaching experience to serve as online facilitators for its virtual NCRA A to Z program. If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about the program, contact Cynthia Bruce Andrews at candrews@ncra.org.

Additional information about both the onsite and online NCRA A to Z programs, including volunteering to become a program leader, registering for a class, and frequently asked questions, can be found at www.atozdiscoversteno.org, or by contacting schools@ncra.org.

Realtime: It’s worth it

By Keith Lemons

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. That’s a saying for just about everything nowadays. As court reporters, we know that it is real every day, all day long. When I was a puppy reporter, I had a judge who used to tell me, “Don’t interrupt anymore. Just throw up your hands when they’re talking too fast or on top of each other.” The problem with that is that whenever she said that in a transcript, the appellate court would naturally wonder what I left out. So I decided that I had to get better. I concentrated on learning how to brief on the fly, get longer phrases in one stroke, and write for the computer instead of myself.

I started out my career with the wonderful world of court reporting computers. All of them were written in dedicated computer systems that did not cross over for any other CAT program. As a matter of fact, you couldn’t even search the Internet or type a Word document or run an Excel spreadsheet because none of that had even been thought of yet. But we, the court reporters, had a marvelous new toy that made our work both harder and more meaningful. Imagine, if you will, being able to type two pages a minute when you used to only get one page per five minutes.

The struggle was real to try to figure out how to load a dictionary, how to write a dictionary, how to use a dictionary, how to edit a dictionary — all on a 2-megabyte disk — how to remember to plug in the machine, how to figure out if the cassette reader was really writing or reading that 300-page medical malpractice trial day you just had. But we learned. We adapted. We had to if we wanted to help our agency pay for that $50,000 Baron Data Center.

Later, when I became an official, I wrote for my newest piece of technology, the Baron Solo. It had 5-½-inch, dual floppy drives. The struggle was real to remember how to use this new technology and never, ever, ever use your magnet in the same room as your computer. (We had an electronic magnet system that bulk-erased our cassette tapes for the machines. If you used it near the computer, you risked either wiping out your floppies or causing damage to the electronics in the computer itself.) Then came the Microsoft revolution. We had yet one more machine to buy and one more operating system to learn. This one came with WordPerfect and learning the wonderful works of macros. No more Cardex! The struggle was so real that I accidentally wiped out my entire operating system trying to clear a message that popped up on my welcome screen.

Now we had to buy a new machine with a floppy disk drive in it. The struggle was real. In the early days of these marvelous inventions, we spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading, upgrading, upgrading, all with no such thing as a legacy fallback.

The 24-pin dot matrix printer revolutionized multiple copy printing — that is, unless you figured in the hours spent trying to separate those carbon pages without destroying your clothing in the process. That struggle was real. So was ink in the machine. Try changing a ribbon without making everything around you purple.

Then the struggle became really, really interesting. In the latter half of the 1990s, a CAT program made real-time court reporting a reality. I got to watch a reporter write from her machine and have real words show up within seconds on a computer screen. I have no idea if her writing was pristine or 1 percent or even 5 percent untranslates. All I knew is it was beautiful. Music filled the skies; my heart was full. For the first time in a long time, I really wanted to be a part of something. It wasn’t just about the money anymore. It was something so new and so grand that I couldn’t even envision the possibilities of the future with it.

So I learned it. I bought more equipment, and I learned wiring and splitting and sending and receiving. It was a real struggle. I showed it to my boss, the judge. She didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But I was enthusiastic about it, so I kept asking her if I could just put a computer on the bench to see if my wiring was correct. She relented, but she made me turn the monitor to where she wouldn’t have to look at it. But she didn’t ever tell me to take it down. Pretty soon, she wanted me to angle the monitor so it would be more visible when she wanted to see the attorneys’ objections. Then she wanted to learn how to scroll backwards, then to search, then to write notes. Eureka!

Realtime (without the hyphen) had come of age. Next struggle was to get other court reporters to accept that our future was in realtime reporting. I felt like the most hated court reporter in the state at times because I provided something that 16 other judges in Wyoming weren’t getting. But when they saw it, they wanted it. (Without extra compensation, of course.)

Little did I know that this struggle would become the thrust of my presentations and seminars for the next 16-plus years. Of course, I’m talking about realtime for the average reporter.

Now the struggle is real because in order to become a realtime writer, we need to put away the things that we learned as a new reporter, that we thought as a new reporter, that we expected as a new reporter. We need to remember that the struggle is not with the machine, it is with our own expectations. We need to struggle to get to the next level of court reporting to make a difference, either in writing realtime or captioning.

The struggle is real; the rewards are great. Two months ago, I was taking a medical malpractice jury trial with several prominent attorneys, one of whom was intensely hard of hearing. I’ve been gently suggesting to him that realtime could help him. Finally, I just did what I did with my judge those many years ago. I put the realtime on his table and told him that it was free; but if he liked it, I would start charging the next day.

During the trial, this attorney would bring the iPad to bench conferences so he could see what was being whispered — something he hasn’t been able to do for years. Both attorneys used their iPads during the instruction conference to see what the construction of their sentences would look like on their jury charge. That reluctant attorney? He now has set two jury trials with me for the beginning of the year — with realtime. Two weeks ago, I did a realtime feed for a woman who was profoundly deaf, deaf from birth, who read lips but never learned American Sign Language. She read lips, but watched my screen like a hawk. She even got a kick out of a mistran or two that I made.

I know the struggle is real. This job can be the most difficult struggle day in and day out. But with our own self-improvement, learning realtime and becoming accomplished at it makes that struggle turn into satisfied accomplishment. I’m loving that struggle. You will too.

JCR Contributing Editor Keith Lemons, RPR, CRR, can be reached at k.lemons@comcast.net. This article was written on behalf of NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee, of which Lemons is a member.

Giving back to give others hope

Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, (in blue jacket) with other participants in Pittsburgh's Light of Life walk

Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, (in blue jacket) with other participants in Pittsburgh’s Light of Life walk

Since 2004, long-time NCRA member Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, a freelance captioner and court reporter from Pittsburgh, Pa., has volunteered for Light of Life Rescue Mission, a local organization that supports hungry and homeless men, women, and children. She does it, she says, because she needs to know each morning when she gets up that what she is working for is beyond herself.

While the Light of Life Rescue Mission provides a hot meal and a warm bed for the people it serves, Peters said the organization also offers programs and education to help people become independent again.

“Light of Life teaches people to fish. Light of Life keeps families together. Whether they are addicted, in recovery, or through tough life circumstances find themselves homeless, Light of Life makes it a mission to get them back on their feet, living with independence and pride again. They must commit to the program, and so Light of Life brings support, accountability, and hope,” says Peters.

Her commitment to supporting Light of Life began when she met the organization’s head of fundraising. “I said: ‘Don’t send me your pamphlets!  You’re wasting paper on me! I will support you significantly every year.’ So, we started meeting to discuss programs; and by the goodness of God, I hold up my end of the bargain,” Peters said.

Peters said she and her family understand the impact that difficult circumstances can have on people of all ages. Her mother passed away when she and her siblings were in their childhood, and though her dad was great, she said everyone in the family struggled in their own way with that significant loss.

“My younger brother dealt with addiction for many years and at one point did go to jail. I remember buying him new clothes so he could look for a job as he struggled returning to society.  Eventually, I am proud to say, he did win his battle and was a hard-working, independent husband and father.  He took responsibility and worked.  He was respected by the workers he eventually supervised in his shop,” Peters shared. “Sadly, he passed of a heart attack five years ago, while he was still too young. But his story is so powerful, and those co-workers were as devastated as we were. He was a real leader to them because they knew he overcame the struggle. He led by example.”

One of the activities Light of Life holds each year is an annual 20-mile walk through Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods to raise awareness about the mission and its work. Peters said joining her and other volunteers for the event are former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers players Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, who also work tirelessly with Light of Life.

“Why walk? Because that’s what the homeless do — all day, every day,” Peters explained. “While we are on the Walk, we see the homeless, and wouldn’t you know, Tunch and Wolf often know them by name!”

One of the highlights of working with Light of Life is watching people succeed on graduation day from its programs, Peters said. “It is a fantastic day. I know that every time I help a client at Light of Life, my brother is smiling somewhere, and when my feet hit the cold, hard wood in the morning, it means something.”

Peters, also a long-time NCRF Angel, is active in other areas of her community as well, including supporting Dress for Success and Treasure House Fashions, organizations that help women get back on their feet, and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, which raises funds for Autism research.

“It’s a week-long endeavor of classic and antique cars every year that starts with a race, followed by a gala, then a car show mid-week, and culminates with a two-day race on the weekend at a park. Proceeds benefit the Autism Society. I support the car show, and in the past I have sponsored a tent,” Peters said.

The JCR Weekly will run a series of interviews featuring NCRA members who are giving back to their community in addition to an article in the April issue of the JCR.