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NCRA Boot Camp — Court reporters and captioners become effective grassroots advocates

NCRA members hit Capitol Hill in full force on Tuesday, Feb. 28 as part of the 2023 NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp. More than 60 attendees who represented 25 states shared the importance of the court reporting, captioning, scoping, videography, and associated legal professions with senators, representatives, and staff members.

Jocelynn A. Moore, Esq., NCRA Director of Government Relations, called the day a monumental success.

“I am beyond impressed with the advocacy efforts exhibited by our Boot Camp attendees on Hill Day,” Moore said. “The skills demonstrated by members like Sonja Reeves, RDR, CRR, who talked with Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan as well as Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (Alaska-at large) for over two hours during a coffee meeting, were like those of professional lobbyists. Additionally, rather than solely attending the scheduled meetings for the day, attendees also went above and beyond by visiting as many offices as possible and conducting drop-by meetings.”

The event started with two days of training with Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, NCRA Executive Director, and Moore and was followed by an extensive day of meetings with legislators and staff on Capitol Hill.

Wenhold outlined the goals of the event, then he and Moore talked to attendees about politics on Capitol Hill and how to effectively advocate for ideas and legislation. Wenhold followed with a discussion on the nuts and bolts of association work and NCRA’s 2023 federal initiative to secure the sponsorship and reintroduction of the Training for Realtime Writers Act, a standalone bill from previous Congresses that sought funding for the recruitment and training of new captioners.

Later in the day, Moore followed with a presentation about NCRA Government Relations member-only resources like the State of the Nations Activities Report (SONAR) and the new NCRA Advocacy Action Center, provided detailed information on current state legislation, and discussed thorough background information on the Training for Realtime Writers grant program. Moore and Wenhold closed the first day of the event by outlining how state associations can mobilize their membership to implement successful grassroots advocacy campaigns and how attendees would be engaging in a mock lobbying scenario the following day.

During the second day of Boot Camp, Jeremey Villanueva, Government Affairs Associate Director with the Wounded Warrior Project, Washington, D.C., began the day by talking to attendees about Congressional interactions post-COVID-19 pandemic and encouraged attendees to have strength and bravery when meeting with legislators and staff. Then attendees and their groups broke out into a mock scenario session in which they were trained to lobby before senators, representatives, and other governmental groups. Afterward they had the opportunity to testify before a mock Senate Committee. The day ended with attendees Stacey Raikes, RMR, CRR, of Florida; Kelly Pieper, RPR, CRR, of Iowa; and Michelle Cessna, RPR, of Tennessee; winning prizes for exemplifying exceptional lobbying and leadership skills and Team Charlie for winning the best overall testimony during their mock Senate Committee hearing. The attendees serving on Team Charlie included: Sharon Alexander of Pennsylvania; Robin Brazil, RPR, of New Mexico; Marlene Burris, RPR, of California; Susan Fiala, RPR, of Missouri; Paula Maddern of Virginia; Kelly Pieper, RPR, CRR, of Iowa; Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, of the District of Columbia; Meredith Seymour of Wisconsin; Annie States of Kansas; and Amber Thompson of Tennessee.

On Hill Day NCRA members asked legislators and staff to make sure funds for the recruitment and training of new captioners is granted by sponsoring and reintroducing the Training for Realtime Writers Act, NCRA’s standalone bill from the 116th and 117th Congresses.

Cindy L. Isaacsen, RPR, who serves as Secretary-Treasurer on the Board of Directors for NCRA, discussed her experience as a longtime veteran of the NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp.

“My favorite part of Boot Camp was witnessing the growth of the attendees from check-in to Hill Day,” said Isaacsen. “It was such an honor to be a part of the process and give them guidance and encouragement along the way. This was my fourth time at Boot Camp, and every time I gained something new and felt stronger and more confident advocating not only for my profession but for myself. I have always encouraged other state leaders to go to Boot Camp and it is wonderful when I get to spend time with them. They know they can contact me if and when the need arises to advocate or pull together a grassroots effort.”

Meredith Seymour, who serves as president of the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association (WCRA), and Greta Pedersen, RMR, who serves as president-elect of WCRA, shared their experiences about attending Boot Camp for the first time this year.

“When I signed up for Boot Camp, I didn’t know what to expect,” Seymour said. “I knew that it would somehow give me insight on how to become a better leader, but I didn’t know how. I’m also not one who’s interested in politics and government relations, so I was worried I wouldn’t take anything away from this event as well as feeling awkward or out of place the whole time. I cannot tell you how valuable, useful, and encouraging this Boot Camp was for me. One word that has come to my mind time and time again ever since is ‘confidence’. All I could think about on our way home was ‘I need to contact my local government officials about our profession and this Act.’ Have I ever wanted to do such a thing in my life before? Absolutely not. But from the information and training I received from the Boot Camp, I now have newfound ambitions of advocacy for our profession in Wisconsin.”

“After completing Boot Camp and going to Capitol Hill, I feel confident in my skills to advocate and lobby for our profession. Truly invaluable training,” Pedersen said.

Juanita Price, RPR, who serves as a realtime court reporter and captioner in the District of Columbia Superior Court also reported a fantastic experience as a first-time attendee at Boot Camp.

“The 2023 NCRA Boot Camp was one of the most amazing experiences in my professional career,” said Price. “I never thought in my wildest, wildest dreams that I would ever become a grassroots lobbyist! To add this to my resume–and yes, I will add this to my resume–this is something that I am PROUD of. I can say I went to the Hill to advocate on behalf of the deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community, which is in dire need of access to communication. I pray Bill H.R. 4652 gets sponsored. I will sign up for the next Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp. Thank you, NCRA, Dave Wenhold, and Jocelynn Moore for helping us to take our careers to the next level!”

Interested in joining us in 2024? Save the date for next year at the 2024 NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp.