NCRA member captions for Arizona Storytellers

An article posted March 20 by explains how NCRA member Karla Martin, RPR, from Phoenix, Ariz., captions for the Arizona Storytellers Project.

Read more.

“It’s about grunting again”: An official stenographer dishes on transcribing tennis players

Deadspin posted an interview on March 20 with NCRA members Linda Christensen, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Phoenix, Ariz., about her work producing official transcripts for tennis tournaments.

Read more.

Schools and students across the country celebrate Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Atlantic Technical College

Schools and students from across the country participated in NCRA’s student speed contest last month. The contest, which was part of NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebration, garnered widespread involvement, with 182 students competing from all over the country. All students, from all court reporting schools, at any speed level, were invited to participate. All told, 17 court reporting programs had students compete in the contest. “My speedbuilding class quite enjoyed writing the student speed contest,” said Barbara Ladderud, a teacher at Green River College in Auburn, Wash. “Thank you for putting this together as a fun way to promote Court Reporting and Captioning Week.”

Cuyahoga Community College

For this speed test, students had the choice of taking a Literary or a Q&A test consisting of five minutes of dictation. Test takers took the test at a speed level they were working on or had just passed and must have achieved 96 percent or higher accuracy to be eligible to win a prize. Because the contest was open to students at all levels, schools were able to have many or all of their students involved. ”Thank you very much for this opportunity,” said Joanne McKenzie, a teacher at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta. “We made it a requirement for all students to participate.” The tests, which were written by Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, a member of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, were intended to push the students. Kay Reindl, CRI, an instructor for Humphreys University in Stockton, Calif., reported that, although “these were pretty challenging tests….most attempted the tests at their targeted speed.”

Of the 182 students who competed in the contest, 42 passed the test. “My students didn’t get 96 percent on either test,” reported LaTherese Cooke, a teacher at South Suburban College in Oak Forest, Ill., “but they gave it their best.” Three of those who past were chosen at random to receive first, second, and third place prizes. First prize, or the gold medal, was awarded to Kelsie Alford of Green River College. Second prize, the silver medal, went to Julie Drew of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and third prize, bronze, was awarded to Samantha Marshak of Realtime Center for Learning, Inc. in Garden City, N.Y.

Des Moines Area Community College

Teachers and students alike were enthusiastic about the experience. “What fun we had! Thank you for the great idea and enthusiasm it generated during Court Reporting and Captioning Week,” said Joan Rikansrud, a teacher at Green River College. “Thank you again for including us in your contest and for all that you do!” echoed Carrie Ravenscroft, Cypress College in Cypress, Calif.

NCRA would like to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions. Below are the names of all the students who participated in this year’s contest. Students marked with an asterisk passed the test with 96 percent accuracy or higher.

Arlington Career Institute
Grand Prairie, Texas
Allie Handlon
Deborah Quarles
Emelia Mullen
Jazzmen Garcia
Jennifer Ferenz
Rosalind Dennis
Sunshine Nance

Atlantic Technical College
Coconut Creek, Fla.
Alison Dituro
Ashley McCormick*
Carolina Rivas
Courtney Carpentier
Jenna Xarhoulakos
Lindsey Polin*
Samantha Kutner
Shawn Condon

Brown College of Court Reporting
Atlanta, Ga.
Amanda Bilbrey*
Amanda Bilbrey*
Andrew Shin
Brianna Shelton*
Connor Tatham
Crystal Foster*
Josie Thompson
Nicole Willoughby*
Nicole Willoughby*
Shannon Miles *


College of Court Reporting
Valparaiso, Ind.
Angela Viray
Ashly Richter
Brian Nelson
Desssalyn Kimbrough
Jennifer Hall
Kate Hargis
Kolby Garrison
Lori Ingram
Macy Thompson*
Megan Bowman  
Shaylene Mofle*


Cuyahoga Community College
Parma, Ohio
Devon Sneve
Kristina Carmody 
Teresa Nero
Vanessa Feistel


Cypress College
Cypress, Calif.
Eun Young (Joyce) Kim


Des Moines Area Community College
Newton, Iowa
Liz Ostrem*
Lonnie Appleby*
Sarah Muff*


Downey Adult School
Downey, Calif.
Jennie Ramos
Jenny Yi


Green River College
Auburn, Wash.
Abby Markson
Alexandria Fleming*
Doug Armstrong
Evelyn Jaimez
Heather Game*
Justin Choi*
Kari Derr
Kelsie Alford*
Lindsey Gruntorad
Michelle Overby
Sara Baxter*
Sarah Webb*
Sierra Zanghi*
Spencer Holesinsky*
Svetlana Golub


Hardeman School of Court Reporting
& Captioning (online)
Amy Plaxton*
Angela Cakridas
Brooke Taylor*
Casey Veinotte
Chelsea Morris*
Kaitlin McGowan*
Nick Mulvoy *


Humphreys University
Stockton, Calif.
Araceli Nava
Brittny Boya
Emma Pesusic
Kate Mendoza
Leslie Orr
Ngia Her
Sarah Glover


Lakeshore Technical College
Cleveland, Wis.
Abigail Fowler
Calisa Barta
Catherine Ray
Chad Hirsch
Megan Baeten*
Meredith Seymour
Michelle Miller
Nicole Whelihan
Stacie Pomrening


Macomb Community College
Clinton Township, Mich.
Alexa Lupenec
Cheryl Demanski*
Robert Ludwig
Tonia Miller


Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Abby Robinson
Amanda Hebb
Ariana McCalla*
Ashley De Marco
Bradley Morrison*
Brent Hannam*
Carly Fenske
Christine Rees
Dakota Chartrand
Dayna Canning
Diego Jiles
Dina Vasylevsky
Dyana Pewarchuk
Eileen Johnson
Ester Horvath
Jada Babiuk
Jalene Hutseal
Jameca Nguyen
Jayne Yuill
Jillian Pumphrey
Julie Drew*
Kayla Hotte
Kelcy Sherbank*
Kim Nguyen
Kristina Zeller
Laura Collis
Laura Driscoll
Linsey Eby
Lora Zabiran*
Martina MacFarlane*
McKaya Baril*
Meagan Gibson
Megan Galloway
Melinda Heinrichs
Michelle Gulka
Michelle Klatt*
Michelle Stevens
Nancy Phong
Netannys Turner-Wiens
Nicole Leddy
Presley Thomson
Sarah Pfau
Shauna Lagore
Stephanie Jabbour*
Stephanie Marocco
Yazda Khaled


Plaza College
Forest Hills, N.Y.
Brittany O’Brien
Christina Valentin
Connie Hwang
Dominique Burke
Elisabeth Dempsey
Elizabeth Keating
Ferrina Johnson
Floriana Krifca
Gabrella Tutino
Hazel Elardo Asca
Jerrica Nieves
Justin Centeno
Justine Torres
Kayla Jacobs
Kimberlee Clifford
Lakesha Dubose
Letitia Caceres
Maia Morgan
Melissa Colon
Paradise Rosario
Pashen Hutton
Patricia Alexander
Radhika Rampersand
Ramona Perez
Raven McCants
Rebecca Pierre-Louis
Ruby Mitchell*
Sophian deFrance
Tambra Whitfield
Violeta Marashaj
Yvonne Panigel


Realtime Center for Learning, Inc.
Garden City, N.Y.
Antonia May*
Debbie Babino
Gabrielle Carletti
Joe Altieri
Lisa Previti
Samantha Marshak*


South Suburban College
Oak Forest, Ill.
Amanda Castaldo
Candace Bradley
Cascidy Bandyk
Casey Toomey
Elizabeth Crossin
Hannah Flynn
Jennifer Blum
Kelsey Mikos
Lilly Martlink
Marla Peteet
Valencia Reed


Cascio retires after more than four decades of court reporting

The Daily American posted an article on March 5 about the career of NCRA member Donna S. Cascio, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, from Somerset, Pa., who recently retired after four decades working as an official court reporter.

The following article is reprinted with permission of The Daily American.

After more than four decades as a court reporter, Somerset resident Donna Cascio maintains high regard for the position.

She retired Friday after a distinguished career full of accolades.

“It is unheard of today for someone to remain in the same job for four decades,” she said with a smile and a straight-forward look as she sat in a jury room surrounded by party favors and congratulations signs that were put there by her colleagues.

She ran her hand over the curved bangs of her layered bob as she sat writing out a list for her final day. Cascio was wearing her professional uniform, her petite figure outlined by a dark skirt and jacket and muted colored blouse.

During the interview, several of her colleagues popped in to say a few words.

“I feel very honored and appreciated the fuss that has been made over me,” she said. “I did not ask for it. I did not expect it, but I do appreciate it.”

Court reporting has suited her well.

“It fits my personality as a professional. The profession of court reporting demands that,” she said.

She ticked off some of the traits needed that she sees in herself.

She has a great sense of right and wrong and ethical conduct, she said.

“That is what being a court reporter in the courtroom is all about,” she added.

“I’m an impartial person in the courtroom, an extension of the court. It is my job to maintain an accurate record of what happens in the courtroom to protect people’s rights, because the court record made by a court reporter is the record that goes to appeal in higher court and proves whether people were given their rights.”

Working at the Somerset County Courthouse has enabled her “to see the picture from beginning to end.”

People who are trained in court reporting have many avenues today, from close-captioning for television, owning a freelance court reporting business, or internet work where they can be called to record important business matters.

One of Cascio’s friends works for the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. Another friend also retired Friday from his job as an official reporter in the (U.S.) House of Representatives.

“So the skill set possessed by court reporters today can take you many places,” she said.

She provided a quote about the profession: “Court reporting is a profession that puts the world at your fingertips,” she said with a grin.

Then Cascio highlighted one avenue for court reporters she supports wholeheartedly, Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), also known as live-event captioning.

“A trained reporter will go with a computer into a classroom for the hearing-impaired student and provide the verbatim lecture of the professor in college and enable hearing-impaired people to expand their knowledge, get a great education and have a degree,” she said.

She believes in education.

“I came from a family, my mother had an eighth-grade education only, and I was the first one of my family of five girls to pursue higher education and I chose court reporting,” she said.

She took enough courses at Conemaugh Township Area High School to finish college in one year instead of the required two years.

While she was in school in Pittsburgh, her father saw an ad for a court reporter in Somerset County and called her. Then-President Judge Charles Coffroth interviewed her for the job. It was a Saturday, she remembered.

She was 19 when she started on Feb. 5, 1973, as a part of the justice system in Somerset County.

She said she has never looked back without a gracious smile.

There have been highs and lows over the 45 years, she admitted.

A low time was in the mid-1980s when a local official, who was part of the justice system, misused his authoritative powers and hurt people under his protection. He was later sentenced, she said.

A high time was witnessing how county residents helped each other during the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

She said she enjoyed working with people at the courthouse and helping others.

“That is what we do every day,” Cascio said. “And we work together to do that. The help I’ve been provided by all the offices has been outstanding.”

Her career has opened the door to meet other people in her profession. Being on the board of directors for both state and national associations allowed her to make friendships that she has maintained.

Cascio was a past president of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association. She was a member of the National Court Reporters Association, and in 2014, she earned the National Court Reporters Association registered diplomate reporter certification, the highest credential available to stenographic court reporters. In the same year, Cascio was named as one of seven fellows countrywide in the Academy of Professional Reporters, a professional distinction conferred upon an individual with outstanding qualifications and experience in the field of shorthand reporting. They are nominated for membership by their peers.

On her final day she was set to “entertain her colleagues” who wanted to be part of her farewell.

Now she plans to become more engrossed in her watercolor art, do a little gardening, enjoy cooking and learn to balance her life with everything she wants to do as a busy retiree. She said she is thrilled that she and her husband, John Cascio, a retired judge, can attend their children’s big moments in their careers and personal lives. Their daughter lives and works in New York City, their son is in Washington, D.C.

Life is about a good balance, she said.

A lucky cab ride

By Kristine Wesner

Growing up, college held so much promise: Pick a school and program I like, earn the degree, qualify for well-paying jobs, and earn enough money to pay back my loans and start my life. However, after the third attempt at starting a career with yet another company, doing something unrelated to my degree and working just to “work,” I finally realized that I was repeating a path I would not enjoy or even continue for much longer. While there were aspects that aligned well with my degree in English studies, the jobs never quite took off to become the career I wanted. So with no plan and a patiently supportive husband, I decided to take time off to figure out where to go in my life.

It was obvious to those around me that I had a passion for the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of documentation. Whether it involved heavy research, developing and structuring some form of record, or just being able to type faster than most in my field, I knew my career would be discovered through those means. I thought pre-law and paralegal work would benefit me, but I was not keen on the idea of staying in school when college was so close to an end at that point; I was burned out and just wanted to work. As the years passed after graduation, it became apparent to me that the adage rang true: “It’s who you know, not what you know.” I never believed it would apply to my situation until I entered into my second month of unemployment in February 2017.

During my two-week stint as a driver for Uber, I received a pick-up request near downtown Chicago. It was then that I met a familiar face in the court reporting world, Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a former president of NCRA who is currently serving the Chicagoland area. When picking her up, I helped load her lone suitcase into the trunk of my car and, being the curious sort that I am, I inquired where she was traveling. It was then she explained her fascinating career as a court reporter, with her writer carefully packaged away in the metal-supported suitcase. She explained that a lot of her career takes her on the road and the writer was a fragile piece of technology, with language smarter than the average computer. Just like your first car, you take care of your machine and it takes care of you. I mentioned that I had been fascinated with the idea of stenography, but I was not keen on the idea of more schooling.

The questions soon began: What had I pursued in college? What jobs had I experienced previously? What kind of work I found enjoyable? Was driving for Uber a hobby or a career for me? I explained that I had graduated with an English degree but felt unfilled with my attempts at finding a career, so I decided to start driving for Uber because I was currently trying “to find myself.” She noted that I seemed to be outgoing and had a solid knowledge of the English language, both of which are strong qualifications for court reporting. In turn, I asked about how happy she was in her career; if more lengthy schooling was required to develop the experience; and of course, what the financial benefits of the career were. In essence, she described — in as much detail and passion as a 20-minute car ride allowed — all the pros and cons of the court reporting world.

As we arrived at her destination, she gave me her business card and invited me to stay in touch with her should I choose to explore the idea of court reporting. When I saw her name, I said, “Your last name means Sunday!” and explained I was studying German as a hobby, to which she said, “You really do love linguistics! You’re already a great fit.” The enthusiasm and driving force she had was infectious and I decided – after much research and review – that I would return to school at the College of Court Reporting (CCR), in Valparaiso, Ind., in order to obtain my AAS in Court Reporting.

I am currently starting my third semester at CCR, having just completed my first five-minute Q&A at 60 wpm. I am surrounded by overwhelming resources and support from the faculty and staff at CCR. My classmates come from all walks of life, yet we are all working toward the same goals (I have even made a steno best friend, whom I speak with almost daily), and that fateful meeting turned an acquaintance into a mentor and friend.

With the challenge of balancing home life and full-time school, the goal of graduating in December 2019 with the 225 wpm requirement seems daunting. But even with attaining that goal, court reporting has ignited a passion in me that I do not feel the English program ever did at my alma mater. I am making plans that never seemed possible: I plan to graduate and apply to a specific agency for a few years, and then I will pursue an opportunity as a full-time court reporter for one of our local courts. Or, if I find myself still struggling with realtime, I would love the idea of teaching theory to future students. I already find myself talking non-stop about it to family and friends, so why not get paid for it as well!

I have not always been the most optimistic person, but court reporting has drastically improved my way of thinking in such a short amount of time, and every day I cannot wait to talk about it with someone new, just what Melanie did for me.

Kristine Wesner is a court reporting student at College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

Why are we here? The path to court reporting school

Court reporting students may share the common desire to become professionals in their field, but each has followed a unique path to get there. They arrive at school with different experiences, for different reasons, and with different plans for the future. Up-to-Speed reached out to students to ask them why they chose court reporting, where they get their inspiration, and what lies ahead.

Connie Spears and Meredith McDonnell of Arlington Career Institute in Grand Prairie, Texas; Sydney Lundberg of Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa; Suzanne Laisney of Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga.; and Sara Vaughn of Simply Steno share their stories.


UTS | Why have you chosen this career?

SPEARS | I have always been interested in the law and hearing people’s stories, and now my career will be to do this every single day! My cousin has been a court reporter for 13 years, and she really has helped me understand the job and the benefits for my future.

LUNDBERG |  I become interested in court reporting through my family member, who was a captioner at the time.

MCDONNELL | I had seen a presentation in high school featuring court reporting as a future career, and it always stuck with me as a skill that I would like to learn more about.

LAISNEY | At the risk of sounding cliché, I actually was looking on the Internet for a new career to have in this part of my life. I saw an ad from Brown College and decided to research it more. As soon as I did, I knew it would be the right fit for me.

VAUGHN | I was in the process of applying to college to become an accountant. It wasn’t really something I thought I’d enjoy, but I knew it would help me financially. A friend of mine happened to mention court reporting, which I’d never even heard of prior to that conversation, so I decided to look into it. After a bit of research, I was convinced it was going to be something that not only would enrich my financial situation but was so diverse that I could be happy with what I do for a long time to come.


UTS | What were you doing before you started school?

SPEARS |I work at a dental office and have for 14 years. But since I was young I always wanted to be a court reporter. So now is my time!

LUNDBERG | Before I started school, I was attending high school, and I was extremely interested in marine biology.

MCDONNELL |I was a part-time preschool teacher and a stay-at-home mom.

LAISNEY |Before I started school I had a full career. I was a 30 year veteran teacher in the public school system in Georgia. My areas of expertise and certifications are focused in language arts and foreign language instruction (in particular French and Spanish), Instructional Technology, and English taught to speakers of other languages (ESOL). With these being my strengths and experience, I thought that court reporting would dovetail quite nicely into a future career!

VAUGHN |I was and still am a bookkeeper.


UTS | Who or what inspires you?

SPEARS |My children inspire me. I want to be the very best I can be and also do what I have always dreamed of doing so that my kids will see in life one day that you can do anything you put your mind to!

LUNDBERG | I am inspired by my aunt, as she assists the hearing impaired through CART and broadcast captioning services.

MCDONNELL |Those who get a little later start in life when it comes to starting their career. I decided to have my children at a young age and to be at home with them for the first several years of their life before I began to work on my own career.

LAISNEY |I am inspired by Richard Branson (entrepreneur and business owner of Virgin companies around the world) and many people whoare similar to him. I love to read quotes from people I admire to inspire me. I look at a quote as a quick peek into a person’s brain. Branson has many that resonate with me, including my favorite: “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes then learn how to do it later.” In fact, I love quotes so much for personal inspiration that I keep a running notebook of them. This way, whenever I run across one I like, I add it to my notebook to re-read later when I need to get that extra pop of motivation!

VAUGHN |It sounds so cliché, but my kids inspire me. I want to show them that even if the task is a long, difficult road, if you set your mind to it, you can make it happen. They’ve seen me go through some setbacks, but they’ll also see me succeed in what I set out to accomplish.


UTS | What happens next? What is your dream job?

SPEARS |This is my dream job! Being a court reporter is my dream job, and I cannot wait to be sitting in the court room!

LUNDBERG | My dream job is to work for VITAC as a captioner.

MCDONNELL |I am very interested in the criminal justice system, and the idea of being in a courtroom and being able to play a part of the action excites me. Court reporting is my dream job because it is the perfect career for allowing me to feel important and involved, but it still gives me the flexibility to spend time with my family.

LAISNEY |My dream job is one in which I feel passionate about what I am doing while continuing to have flexibility and balance in my life. It is one where I feel excited to come to work daily, knowing that I will leave at the end of the day having made a difference!

VAUGHN |I am in love with cosmology! My dream job would be to provide captioning services for NASA or SpaceX.

Student speed contest winners announced

Kelsie Alford of Green River College in Auburn, Wash.

NCRA congratulates the winners of the Court Reporting & Captioning Week student speed contest. Of the students who passed the five-minute dictation test, three winners were drawn at random. Kelsie Alford of Green River College in Auburn, Wash., was awarded the Gold medal. “Even though I’m at the beginning of my speed-building journey, having the opportunity to participate in the NCRA speed contest was exciting,” said Alford. “Although I was nervous to write the test, the support of my peers and teachers encouraged me to take on this challenge.”

Julie Drew of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta

Julie Drew of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta was awarded the Silver medal. “This speed test was a great opportunity to enhance my vocabulary and to further my learning,” Drew said. “Thank you for this great experience!” The Bronze medal went to Samantha Marshak of Realtime Center for Learning, Inc. in Garden City, N.Y. Marshak has been studying for nearly three years. “Court reporting as a career has proven to be a challenge from the start,” she told Up-to-Speed, “but it will be one of the most rewarding accomplishments to say ‘I did it.’”

The NCRA Student/Teacher Committee sponsored the Olympic-themed speed test, which was offered to all students at varying test speeds. One Literary and one Q&A test were given and each consisted of five minutes of dictation at a speed level that each student was either currently working on or had just passed. In order to be eligible to win a prize, students must have passed the test with at least 96 percent accuracy.

Samantha Marshak of Realtime Center for Learning, Inc. in Garden City, N.Y.

As the gold medal winner, Alford will go home with an RPR Study Guide ($125 value). Drew, the silver medalist, will have the choice of a one-year NCRA student membership ($46 value) or one complimentary leg of the RPR Skills Test ($72.50 value). The winner of the Bronze medal, Marshak, will receive a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Many thanks to Debbie Kriegshauser for her hard work writing the speed tests and preparing the other testing materials. The contest would not have been possible without her.

Court reporters: Crucial and often unsung players in court, elsewhere

NCRA members and official court reporters from New Jersey, Argia Riggs, RDR, Lois McFadden, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Colleen Kisielewski, RMR, CRR, CRC, were featured in an article posted by The Burlington County Times on March 12 about the court reporting profession both in and outside of the courtroom.

Read more.

Former NCRA Member passes away

Dorothy Nell Bayless, of Plano, Texas, passed away on March 2. She was an Oklahoma state court reporter in the Osage and Tulsa County Court Systems and was chosen Oklahoma State Court Reporter of the Year while she was a reporter in Tulsa County.

Read more.

NCRA member interviewed on radio program

NCRA member Steve Clark, CRC, of Washington, D.C., was interviewed by Ray Raysor, host of “Sight ‘n Vision Disability and Senior Talk Radio,” about how broadcast captioning works. Clark explains that  live realtime captioning is mostly provided by stenographic captioners using specialized computer translation software to provide word-for-word access for people with hearing impairments. He also spoke about stadium captioning and conference captioning.

The interview with Clark starts at approximately 12 minutes.

Listen here.