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Volunteers get back more than they give

In honor of April being National Volunteer Month, NCRA has been asking the members who serve the profession in leadership roles and on committees, task forces, and councils to help further the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions why they do so. The NCRA Board of Directors and staff recognize that much of the Association’s important work would not be completed without the army of volunteers who step up with each call to give.

“We have great opportunities on the horizon, and with your help we will bring them all to fruition,” said NCRA President-Elect Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter and captioner from Salt Lake City, Utah. “Everyone has something to give. Perhaps you won’t truly know what your contributions can be until you begin. It’s not about worthiness; it’s about willingness. I didn’t know what I didn’t know 18 years ago when I accepted an invitation to serve on the Tennessee and Utah Court Reporters Association’s Board of Directors and then after that accepted the invitation to serve on the NCRA Board, and I have learned and grown and become stronger and more qualified to serve every day. The only way to discover what greatness lies within you is by participating, and together we can do great things!”

The JCR Weekly wanted to learn more about what motivates NCRA members to volunteer and just what they get in return for their time and effort. See Shaunise Day’s description of what volunteering does for her.

Below is a glimpse into what we learned:

“I have been honored to serve on NCRA’s A to Z® Committee for the past three years. I thoroughly enjoy working with our committee members from across the nation who share the same passion I have for our profession and want to see it continue to thrive! The most rewarding and amazing experience I have personally had as a volunteer with the A to Z program is watching how A to Z impacted three high school teachers. All three high school teachers enrolled in court reporting theory after completing the A to Z program, which is totally amazing!

“I look forward to the day when A to Z and/or court reporting theory are taught in our high schools in every single state in our nation!”

Mary Oralia Berry, RDR, CRR, CRC, is an official court reporter from San Antonio, Texas, and chair of the NCRA A to Z® Committee.

“I must say that I have enjoyed the work and friendships from more than eight years of volunteering in connection with our profession. I am astounded on a regular basis by the amount of research and work that is done by the [NCRA] STRONG Committee in connection with providing the factual basis on why a human stenographer is better than digital and AI reporting methods. The concrete backup they have been able to provide is enabling the argument to be made across our industry, and it is effective and invaluable!”

2021-2022 NCRA Vice President Meredith A. Bonn, RPR, CRR, is an official court reporter from Webster, N.Y. She also serves on NCRA’s Finance Committee and chairs the NCRA Policy and Procedures Committee.

“I’ve found volunteering for the NCRA Strong Committee has provided me with a sense of personal accomplishment in being able to give back to my profession surrounded by others constantly striving to do the same. It’s incredibly inspiring, with lifetime friendships being fostered along the way. We’ve all learned so much together and have been able to organize information and data we’ve gathered in a way that others may easily access and share within their own state associations, bar associations, captioning companies, judges, and clerk and court administrator associations. It’s not a glamorous part we play – we admit we’re trench diggers, geeky tech data researchers (plus kinda snoopy, too) – but it ultimately brings what I believe to be extraordinary value to the court reporting community and the consumers of our services across the country. If you’re not volunteering, try it! Most everyone who does ultimately finds the benefits far outweigh the time sacrificed and the energy they devoted.”

Phyllis Craver-Lykken, RPR, is a freelance court reporter from Seattle, Wash.

“I have been a volunteer for many years – and not just with my professional organizations. I have volunteered for church, school, social, work-related, and for my state and national associations. I always seem to get more out than I put in. And volunteers put in a lot of hours of time and effort. Some of my nearest and dearest friends are the ones I have made when I stepped up and said, ‘Yes, count me in,’ because they too said the same thing. It’s certainly easy to throw stones from the sidelines, but when you begin to give your time to something, no matter the cause, you begin to understand the process and why things are done the way they are. I saw a sign the other day that I felt is perfect: ‘Before you complain, have you volunteered yet?’ I challenge everyone to volunteer. Not everyone has the same skills and gifts, but we all have something to contribute.” 

Cindy L. Isaacsen, RPR, is an official court reporter from Olathe, Kan. She also serves as an NCRA Director and as a member of NCRA’s Finance and Policy and Procedures committees.

“I have been blessed in volunteering for NCRA to make valuable relationships that I hope continue long past my working years. One such relationship is with Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, the co-chair of the CLVS Council. Mindy and I met briefly while I was obtaining my CLVS certification. We reconnected when we both volunteered to be on the council. She and her husband, Jeff, live approximately eight hours away from us. Two years ago, we were visiting family in Indianapolis; Mindy and Jeff drove to meet us so we could enjoy a wonderful lunch and an afternoon walk together. This year, my family and I are planning on stopping by their place on our annual RV adventure as we go to visit the Ark Encounter. I would never have met them if it weren’t for volunteering for NCRA!” 

Andrea Kreutz, CLVS, a legal videographer from Des Moines, Iowa. She also serves on NCRA’s STRONG and Technology committees.

“The knowledge and experiences I have netted from my NCRA membership make volunteering a no-brainer. I love our profession. Anything I can do to showcase captioning or to give a hand up to another captioner makes all of us shine. I will never be able to outgive what stenography has given to me. Our volunteer relationships spill over into other areas of our lives.  The committee work is important and vital, but it’s the side talks and after-hour discussions that make me smile. I can’t wait to give hugs to my fellow volunteers from NCRA come Vegas!”

Kelly D. Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, is a captioner from Rittman, Ohio, who serves on NCRA’s CRC Certification and Nominating committees. She is also a co-regional representative for the National Congress of State Associations.

“I have been a volunteer on the NCRA Proofreading Committee for a few years. Our duties include proofing the weekly JCR Weekly and sometimes portions of the monthly JCR. I’m no Lillian Morson, but I am pretty good at finding misspellings. My colleagues on the committee, though, are amazing with punctuation. I learn something every week from these ladies.”    

Kathy McHugh, RPR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter from Audubon, N.J.

“I have enjoyed working with everyone at NCRA over the years. When I was a young one, not having a clue what court reporting was, my mom used to drag me around to all of the national, mid-year, and teacher workshops, . My first committee assignment was on the Council on Approved Student Education where I first met Len Sperling, and we have been good friends and colleagues ever since. Not sure what year it was, but it has to have been more than 20 years ago. Oh, how the times have changed.”

Jeff Moody, is president/executive director of the College of Court Reporting based in Valparaiso, Ind.

“When I was a student, our instructor encouraged us to join our professional organizations. Even when money was tight as a student, I would try to keep up my membership. It means a lot to me to be part of the solution rather than complain about the problems. Volunteering not only has given me the opportunity to grow in our field, but also to know firsthand what’s happening in our industry.”

Teresa Russ, CRI, is a freelance court reporter and captioner from Bellflower, Calif. She currently serves on NCRA’s Technology and Student/Teacher committees.

“I currently serve on the New Professionals and Veterans Committee, and I’ve served for two years now. Serving on committees is such an eye-opening experience because we are the ‘behind the scenes’ of NCRA – not just the committee I serve on, but all of them. Without the help of volunteers to create these committees, NCRA definitely wouldn’t be what it is today. I’ve always felt that being a member of our national organization was my way of doing my part, but since serving on committees, I’ve learned that it is all part of the greater picture! While serving on the New Professionals and Veterans Committee, I’ve had the absolute joy of meeting what I call my ‘NCRA besties’: Rachel Barkume, RPR, CRR, and Jordan Groves. These girls are more than just my court reporting friends. They’ve become two of the greatest, reliable, selfless, and hilarious girls that have ever crossed my path. We have grown close to the point where we not only support one another through the career’s ups and downs but also through life in general, from buying a home, getting engaged, all the way to our wildest weekend adventures. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them. If I hadn’t said yes to serving on this committee, or any others previously for that matter, I wouldn’t have the connections and friendships that I have today. Serving on committees really is the best way to get yourself out there and help build your web of contacts for wherever you end up in this career.”

Callie Sajdera, RPR, is an official court reporter from Lakewood, Colo.

“I cannot say enough: Everyone should volunteer for a committee at least once. When you serve on a committee, you really get to know the wonderful support staff at NCRA and how really hard they all work to accomplish the committees’ goals. You will make lifelong friendships with members from all over the world.”

Bonni Shuttleworth, CRI, CPE, is an instructor from Crestwood, Ill.

“I have made so many lifelong friends through NCRA, very near and dear friends. I’ve made friends serving on committees, teaching workshops, and administering skills tests – way back when we tested in person. Thanks to all the networking that comes from volunteering with NCRA, I know who to trust to cover a high-profile assignment for us. I know who to call when we need a steady hand for any of our clients. Captioners work remotely most of the time. It’s such a treat to spend time together at the convention or serving on a committee. It will be great to see many friends at the convention in Las Vegas this summer.”

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRC, a captioner and firm owner from Portland, Ore.

“Being on the NCRA A to Z® Committee, as well as being involved in the NCRA DiscoverSteno® program, has enriched my life by giving me opportunities to teach people about our profession and help them learn about all the possibilities the field of court reporting offers. I am grateful for all the cherished friendships that have emerged through this journey. I enjoy being there to help answer questions and encourage people as they progress through school and get excited for their successes.”

Melinda J. Wall, RMR, an official court reporter from Oklahoma City, Okla.