By Jessica Shines
Brenda Reyes, a recent graduate of El Paso Community College in El Paso, Texas, attracted my attention last fall with a post about her insanely busy schedule as a 225-wpm student and mom of two. As a student myself, I had to talk to a woman who could find time to practice, intern, homeschool, plan a wedding, and still do yoga. Read on to find out how she does it.
UTS | Can you just tell us a little bit about your court reporting journey?
BR | I decided to go into court reporting back when I was in high school during career day, so I signed up for it in 2007. However, the degree plan required me to take some criminal justice classes, and I decided to switch to criminal justice instead. Life happened, and I had to take a break from 2009 and 2014 to take care of my daughter. I went back to school in 2014, and in 2016 I received my bachelor’s in criminal justice. I realized I did not want to join law enforcement, so I went back to school for court reporting part-time in 2018 and I graduated in 2020.
UTS | How did your family react when you decided to go back to school?
BR | My fiancée is the one who encouraged me to go back to school for court reporting. He is an attorney, so he knew that this was a great career. My mother was not excited at all because I already have a bachelor’s degree, and she didn’t understand why I would “neglect” my children just to go back to school. I had to remind myself that she was taught to think this way when she was growing up as a woman in our home country.
However, my family at home was incredibly supportive. I had a spare machine, and my daughters would join me during practice time. My partner would help me with dictation by reading my warm-up material to me as fast as he could. When I was preparing to take the WKT of the Texas state test, he would help with all of the household chores and take the girls out so I could have some silence to study. They assured me that they were OK with me spending so much time on my schoolwork.
UTS | What advice can you give other parents in steno school?
BR | My advice is to be grateful. A few years ago, I lost my baby at four months of pregnancy, and I was devastated. Then I was blessed with my rainbow baby, and I am so grateful for every moment with her. I decided to become a wish grantor with Make-A-Wish and had the opportunity to meet families whose kids were diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. That’s why I don’t let the stress of court reporting school keep me from enjoying my time with my daughters.
As a female immigrant from a country where women are discouraged from going to school or having a career, I am grateful for every opportunity. Instead of thinking that it is too hard to cook, take care of the kids, and practice, change your mentality. Women around the world are still fighting for the right to go to school, so if you have it, appreciate it. If you change how you view things, the things you view will change.
UTS | What are you most looking forward to doing for your family after you start working?
BR | One of the first things I want to buy is a psychiatric service dog for my daughter who was diagnosed with depression and panic attacks. This is an expensive dog, but I know this career will provide me with the opportunity to buy it for her.
UTS | Did you face any other struggles?
BR | Yes, the first one being that English is not my native language. It was difficult having to re-learn English in steno, and I am dyslexic also. Imagine your theory book being set up as a crossword puzzle with the letters moving around. I just had the mindset of “If I fail, my daughters fail. My success is their success.”
Jessica Shines is a recent graduate of MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill.