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NCRF announces 2020 New Professional Reporter Grant recipients

Two awardees named for the first time in grant’s 16-year history

By Jill Parker Landsman

The National Court Reporters Foundation announced two recipients for the 2020 New Professional Reporter Grant.

“Since our former Frank Sarli and Robert H. Clark scholarships ended in 2019, we decided to award a first- and second-place recipient for this grant this year,” said NCRF Chair Cathy Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS, an official court reporter from Collierville, Tenn. “Each winner was selected after displaying remarkable focus on academics as well as dedication to the court reporting industries. Their letters of recommendation played a strong role in their selections.”

First-place winner, Erin Johnson of Carthage, Ill., was awarded $2,000. She is grateful about the day in high school when she had her epiphany about becoming a court reporter.

“My interest in court reporting came when I was fortunate enough to job shadow another court reporter while I was in high school,” Johnson said. “From that day forward, I knew this was the career for me. I entered court reporting for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons was my love for the English language as well as my desire to work in the judicial system. One reason that I am passionate about court reporting is that I can contribute to the judicial system firsthand by taking down an accurate, verbatim record,” she added.

“I have always been excited about my career, and I know how important it is for the judicial system to have qualified stenographic reporters,” Johnson said. “We are responsible for the recordkeeping of very serious matters. Additionally, I enjoy learning about the law and how it applies to each case. Court reporting offers such a variety of subject matter that it makes the job so interesting. The friendships I have developed with the judges, attorneys, and staff are outstanding. I have been so blessed with the people that I have met and the support that I have had.  I can’t wait to see what the career of court reporting holds for me.”

For the first time since 2005, NCRF selected a second winner, Laura Tello of Houston, Texas, who was awarded $1,000.

Tello passed her court reporting state test in Dallas, Texas, on June 22, 2019. Her mother died just three days before, but she mustered up tenacity and focus to complete her credentials. Due to adverse audio during testing, only 13 out of 50 examinees passed; she was one.

Tello’s training had starts and stops. “I can’t tell you the amount of times I just wanted to throw that machine out of my moving car every time I left school without passing Alvin Community College’s [Alvin, Texas] hard test,” she said. “That machine was like a third child, always stuck to me wherever I went. During my studies, things in my life got harder to deal with, be it money, ailing parents, the kids, and other stuff that interfered with taking classes. So my court reporter training was an off-and-on-again relationship for the rest of the years that followed,” Tello added. 

“I think, if anything, my court reporter education shows that, although I may not be a spring chicken anymore, I fought long and hard for this career to define me as a person interested in bettering myself. I appreciate feeling needed in this profession, and I enjoy it tremendously. The scholarship means that I have been validated for my long hard fight to get to where I am at today, and for that I am truly grateful! Thank you for this scholarship. I love my job! Love what you do and do what you love is a quote I read from a veteran court reporter whom I shadowed. She is truly an inspiration to me. A writer like that is what I continue to aspire to become one day,” Tello said.

For information about this NCRF New Professional Reporter Grant, click here.

Jill Parker Landsman, is manager of the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at