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Student Spotlight: Perseverance does pay off

By Julia Licona

I grew up in a small town, Big Bear Lake, Calif., and was very fortunate to be given many opportunities. My greatest joy was the piano. I played for more than 12 years and believed that I would turn it into more than just a passion. However, I suffered a serious burn on my arm and hand. Receiving third- and fourth-degree burns, I was hospitalized for a month and received multiple surgeries. This burn stopped me from playing piano, which I loved so much. I was 16 when I suffered this injury, and as a result I proceeded to graduate high school through a mixture of home, hospital, and in-person schooling. After graduating, I knew that pursuing the field of science was something that I always wanted to do. To pursue that goal, I went to Cal State Fullerton, where I obtained multiple licenses in the biotechnology industry. I began working in a toxicology laboratory as a biomanufacturer. While I was working, I continued my education and obtained a bachelor of science in biology with an emphasis in chemistry and biotechnology. Shortly after graduating, I knew I needed something more, and I wanted to move my education toward the realm of law.

I started working with a lawyer as his apprentice so that I could see if becoming a lawyer was something I’d be interested in. Upon working in that field, I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me. I did, however, find the court reporter’s job to be interesting. I started my search and soon thereafter found South Coast College in Orange, Calif. I had just enough money to support myself and pay for school for one year. However, trying to complete a three-to-four-year program in just a year would be challenging, but it was a challenge that I was ready to take on. I knew after one short hour that court reporting was where I belonged. My teacher, Becky Remsen, impacted my life more in that first class than most people have in a lifetime. Coming from a background as a pianist, everything on the machine felt so natural. I was devastated when I lost the piano, but when I found court reporting my dream was reimagined. Having the finger dexterity and discipline of a musician, court reporting was a perfect match.

I attended school all morning, then went to work at night. Exhaustion was something that I was not only beginning to get comfortable with, but also that I was beginning to truly appreciate. Becoming a court reporter required more dedication than anything I had ever done.

In January 2020, I sustained a serious injury and was not able to return to work. In the span of eight months, I received two surgeries: a full hip and knee reconstruction and a meniscus repair. The surgeries provided another challenge; however, it only drove me to work harder and dedicate more of my time and efforts to this program that I loved so much. Luckily, this surgery did not affect my writing at all. It ended up being one of the main reasons I got so far so fast. I was out of work and had no other option than to practice incessantly. Dedication and perseverance were becoming second nature, and I knew I needed to keep working through all the surgeries.

I was practicing all day and all night in order to prepare for my speed testing. I began speed testing in March and passed through 40 words per minute to 100 words per minute. As a result of COVID-19, our school experienced a closure, so testing stopped momentarily. The teachers and administration worked tirelessly to put together a wonderful online program, and in May I was able to begin testing again. I then moved through my speeds and began accelerating through my academics. I attribute much of my success to the support that I received. I practiced every day for nearly 14 hours a day. This may seem like the reason I was able to succeed; however, without the help of my teachers, my friends, and my family this level of success wouldn’t have been an option. My work ethic and dedication are something that I came to court reporting school with, but the support and South Coast College family that I found was something that I could have never succeeded without.

The best advice I have received and will continue to pass on is something that Jean Gonzalez (South Coast College president) told me: Outwork every person in the room. This advice drove me to the finish line. I stayed at school and I practiced harder than anyone I knew. I needed to try and become the best version of myself. With the help of everyone at this school, I was able to do just that. I truly am forever in debt to the people who have helped me so much along the way.

Now, as I write this, I am only one test away from being a Certified Shorthand Reporter. Taking the CSR will mean the world to me. My blood, sweat, and tears have been poured into this program, and taking the CSR will show the accomplishment of my hard work. In the past I have been very nervous while taking tests, but I believe I will go into the CSR with so much prior knowledge and confidence that I will push the nerves out of my system. South Coast College taught me so much more than just stenography. I learned the true meaning of hard work, focus, and dedication. From these three pillars, my whole life changed, and I knew that this was my forever career.

I would love to work in a courthouse when I finish, and I truly hope that I can help students going through the program as so many people have helped me. In five years, I hope to have obtained as many additional certificates as possible within the industry. I want to become the best writer that I can be.

With the help of so many people, I will shortly begin this new journey in my life.

Julia Licona is a recent graduate of South Coast College in Orange, Calif.