Virtual career day in the courtroom

By Shaunise Day

Earlier this year, I was excited to announce that I had partnered with KIPP, a nationwide non-profit network of public charter schools, to promote our court reporting and captioning professions to their schools. In order to promote our profession during a career fair, it was suggested that maybe I could put together a full career fair that represents the legal profession. I was able to get the courtroom approved to hold the career fair. We were going to have the panel set up in the courtroom, provide lunch for the students, give a mini-networking session with the students and professionals, set up a few steno machines to allow the students to try them out, and then finally give a tour of the courthouse. COVID-19 happened and changed everything.

Over the summer, we all witnessed parents and students struggling with homeschooling. I could only imagine what that must have been like. I contacted the director for the KIPP Academy in the Bay Area of California to see if we could still possibly put this career fair together but make it a virtual career fair. What better time than now to encourage and remind our youth that their goals and dreams of going to a college or trade school still mattered? This was the perfect time. This would also give parents some relief and bring some positivity to this pandemic. Director Chris Walker from KIPP Academy- Bay Area, California, was on board with this whole idea that I presented, and we brainstormed to make this first ever virtual career fair come alive.

After participating in two career fairs on behalf of the California Court Reporters Association last year, I knew that I wanted to keep this up. I gave up four hours last year to promote the profession on behalf of my state association. We have 365 days in a year, and all it took was four hours to do something good to promote the profession. I knew going forward that I would continue to set aside a few hours per year to give back and promote steno to the public.

I decided that my target audience would be inner-city schools. The reason why I selected KIPP Academy was because of its inclusion and diversity. This was near and dear to my heart. After setting up the first KIPP Academy career fair, I decided to take it a step further and contact another chapter of KIPP Academy, in Houston, Texas. The director immediately was on board with my plan. I thought we could make October a month to promote the profession. By this time, I had a total of four virtual career fairs planned.  After the organizing and planning was complete, it was now time to reach out to our reporting/captioning community and see who would be available to volunteer a few hours to help promote the profession.

I also created a new Facebook group: The Steno Xperience. It is for those in the steno community who are interested in promoting the captioning/court reporting professions through career fairs while promoting the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand Program. The group was also created to share ideas on how to promote the profession, share pictures of other steno-related career fairs, give talking points to the public while promoting the profession, and maybe inspire others to get involved and give back.

Career Fair #1 for teen girls

We kicked off our first virtual career fair with a small group of teen girls from Dallas, Texas. This virtual career fair was held on Oct. 3. We had six stenographers participate. We had Linda McSwain, RPR, an official reporter in Mobile, Ala.; Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, an official reporter in Arlington, Texas; Lenora Walker, a freelance reporter in Oceanside, N.Y.; Adriana Johnson from California; Vertina Yeargin, a freelance reporter in Lauderhill, Fla.; and Stephanie Hicks, a freelance reporter in Bronx, N.Y. These stenographers did such an awesome job promoting the profession and giving words of encouragement. I sat back and let these ladies do what they do best and that’s share their passion for the profession. After the Zoom meeting, Hicks decided to register for the RPR for the next testing cycle. You see, when a group of stenographers are together, we encourage and motivate each other. This was one of the highlights about the career fair. Empowered stenographers empower stenographers.

Career Fair #2 and #3 – Kipp Academy

The career fair for KIPP Academy Houston was done in two parts. This career fair panel was made up of the professions that you would see in a courtroom. We had Judge Dunson from Houston, Texas; attorney Eddrea McKnight from Houston, Texas; and police officer Sheldon Theragood from Houston, Texas. We had our very own stenographers Mekailah McChriston, an official reporter in Spring, Texas; Leticia Villanueva from Houston, Texas; Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance reporter in San Antonio, Texas; and Adriana Johnson from California provided the captions. I was so proud at how passionately each professional spoke about the legal profession.

The second career fair was Oct. 5. The director requested that we record the professionals who could not make it to the live virtual career fair and also wanted a person to be present during the live career fair to answer the questions that students may have. During this pandemic, the stenography world has been busy. It was hard to get reporters to commit during the morning hours to promote the profession. I ended up being the presenter for the live career fair. I had no clue that I would be speaking to four different classes on two different days. Each class was for 50 minutes. For some of the periods, we had classes that would combine and join the Zoom meeting. One class may have had 42 students, while another may have had 26 students. I put together a PowerPoint presentation and made sure that I had enough material to cover the entire class schedule while leaving room for questions at the end. The resources that I used were pulled from NCRA’s website. Between the PowerPoint presentation and the professional short video clips, the timing was perfect. I also included steno TikTok videos that the students enjoyed and could relate to. I was able to answer all questions and provide handouts and information on the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand Program. I promoted the profession for two days straight with a total of eight classes. The director and students were impressed, and we have been asked to promote the profession at their next career fair. The next time I will be sure to have stenographers on deck where there is someone for each class

Career fair #4 – Bay Area, California

The fourth and final virtual career fair was held at KIPP Academy- Bay Area, Calif. This virtual career fair was different from Houston’s career fair. The director only wanted the panel to be present and we did a Zoom recording only. All professionals submitted pictures and their bios, and the students sent in their written questions ahead of time. Once we held the Zoom meeting, all professionals gave an introduction and answered the students’ questions. The panel included Judge Jo-Lynne Lee from California; attorney Peter Langley from California (husband to our very own stenographer Early Langley, RMR, a freelancer in Danville, Calif.); Shacara Mapp, a freelancer in Warren, Mich.; and Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner and court reporter in Murrieta, Calif., who provided the captions while he and Mapp both spoke eloquently about our profession and answered the students’ questions.

The virtual career fairs turned out better than I expected. Since we were not able to hold our traditional career fairs, the main goal was to inspire our youth that their dreams are still important despite what we are going through with this pandemic. Our stenographers promoted our court reporting/captioning professions. The judges, attorneys, and police officer shared why the judicial system was important and the importance of finishing school. Each virtual career fair ended with words of encouragement. From the judges to the attorneys, they made sure to acknowledge our court reporting/captioning profession. Doing things remotely is now the new thing. I find myself saying this on a weekly basis, “When technology evolves, so will stenography.” As a profession, we have to continue to find ways to stay with the times and make sure we are educating the public on who we are and what we do. Judge Lee was impressed to find out what captioners actually do. Let’s continue to keep the steno conversation going. Although these virtual career fairs were for the students, I think we all walked away learning something new from another profession. I definitely learned something new and was inspired by all participants. 

Shaunise Day is a student from Oakland, Calif.