Court reporting programs nationwide celebrate For the love of steno

NCRA’s 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated the love of steno nationwide with official proclamations and an array of activities ranging from career days to Veterans History Project events to social hours and more. This year’s theme, For the love of steno, marked the week that was observed Feb. 8-15 and embraced especially by students and faculty in court reporting programs across the country. Below is a wrap up of the week:

At Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), Cuyahoga, Ohio, where the court reporting program is experiencing a record enrollment this semester, students were treated to a surprise guest speaker hosted via WEBEX so those locally and around the country could listen in. Students also took shifts in the main galleria of the college to staff a prize wheel and steno machine station. Passersby who tried out the steno machine on display were then given the chance to spin a prize wheel.

Members of Tri-C’s Court Reporting Club hosted two meet-and-greet sessions with working reporters for all the students at the college. The professionals shared their experiences and best advice and then answered student questions. Students shared that it was highly motivating and provided them with actionable steps they could follow for success. Both sessions were also webcast to students nationwide.

Karen Santucci, CRI, New York State Court Reporters Association (NYSCRA) vice president and the director of the court reporting program at Plaza College in Queens, said the school kicked off the week with a visit by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who presented students with a proclamation recognizing its dedication to educating men and women in the field of court reporting. During the week, the school also hosted five guest speakers representing official court reporters, firm owners, and grand jury reporters to share stories of their experiences. More than 100 students at the college also competed in a nationwide fast-fingers contest to celebrate the week.

Downy Adult School, Downy, Calif., celebrated the week by hosting a variety of different activities, including a pajama day where students and faculty enjoyed cupcakes embellished with the For the love of steno message and a hat day. There was also an “I scream for steno” day where participants made T-shirts celebrating court reporting and captioning, enjoyed ice cream cones, and watched the court reporting documentary For the Record. The school held a bake sale, a wear-red-and-pink day, and raffles for students to win prizes.

SimplySteno, an online court reporting program based in Tigard, Ore., celebrated by allowing free online screenings of the court reporting documentary For the Record.

In Chicago, Ill., students at MacCormac College hosted the Court Reporting & Captioning Week interactive question-and-answer session and reception that featured guest speaker NCRA member Isaiah Roberts, RPR. Roberts spoke to students and answered their questions about life on the “other side” of the RPR. Several other court reporters from the professional community were also on hand to answer questions.

The College of Court Reporting (CCR), Valparaiso, Ind., hosted NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, a firm owner and court reporter from Franklin, Tenn., as a guest speaker during the week. Curry addressed students, alumni, and the general public about the importance of the court reporting profession, the role schools play in educating students, and the value of being an NCRA member. 

To celebrate the week, court reporting students from the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania participated in the 57th annual Academy Mock Trial Competition.

NCRA member Marjorie Peters, FAPR, RMR, CRR, volunteered to write the final round of the competition. She live-streamed to the iPads (courtesy of the court reporting program at CCAC) of the law students and trial judges 253 pages of impeccable realtime translation.

According to Natalie Kijurna, director of alumni and employer relations for CCR, the college also highlighted alumni in their chosen field by running a social media campaign based on the For the Love of Steno theme. Alumni also did a takeover of the school’s Snapchat account to spread the word about court reporting and captioning. Other activities included a Facebook Live event with a working court reporter, during which the school challenged their students and students at participating schools who use EV360 software to practice as much as possible. The top three students who practiced the most were awarded prizes.

Students at Atlantic Technical Institute in Coconut Creek, Fla., celebrated the week by holding a mock trial for students in a legal administration class to demonstrate the role of the court reporter and realtime writing. The mock trial was The Government vs. Tarzan. Tarzan was accused of kidnapping Jane. The students that attended the mock trial were the jurors, and they came back with a not guilty verdict. The school also hosted two of its recent graduates, who visited with current students and shared their experiences as new reporters and answered questions.

Even though the 2020 event is over, it is always a good time celebrate and promote the court reporting and captioning professions. Be sure to visit the NCRA Court Reporting & Captioning Week resources page to download a variety of materials, including many that can be customized and designed to help promote the profession.

Finally, don’t forget to mark your calendars and start planning now to celebrate NCRA’s 2021 Court Reporting & Captioning Week Feb. 6-13.

Stenograph announces winner of the Milton H. Wright Scholarship

In a press release issued March 6, Stenograph announced the winner of a new scholarship that honors Stenograph’s founder, Milton H. Wright. The winner of the scholarship, awarded through a partnership with NCRF, is Lisa Wurtinger, a student at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

Read more.

Stenograph scholarship winner announced

Lisa Wurtinger

The National Court Reporters Foundation has announced the winner of Stenograph’s Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, a new scholarship that honors the memory of Milton H. Wright, Stenograph’s founder. Lisa Wurtinger, a student at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn., will receive the merit-based two-year award, which is worth up to $5,000 per year and will include use of a student writer and software. Candidates were required to have completed an NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.

“I am incredibly honored to be a recipient of this scholarship as I know so many students have worked hard for this opportunity,” Wurtinger said. “The A to Z program introduced me to this incredible field, and to receive recognition for my hard work is so rewarding. The generosity of Stenograph with this scholarship gives me the encouragement and determination to continue on this journey toward graduation.”

This scholarship is offered through the National Court Reporters Foundation.

“Stenograph is proud to sponsor this scholarship, and we are thrilled to have it go to such a deserving student,” said Stenograph Vice President Star Levandowski. “It is clear that Ms. Wurtinger has a bright future ahead. We are excited to see where this wonderful profession will take her!”

To be eligible to apply for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, applicants had to meet the criteria below:

  • Attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • Have completed an NCRA A to Z ® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program
  • Have received an NCRA A to Z ® Certificate of Completion
  • Have attained an exemplary academic record (3.5 GPA or above)
  • Have passed one skills test writing 80-120 words per minute at the time of submission

“NCRF so appreciates Stenograph’s commitment to the future of the court reporting and captioning professions and the company’s generosity to aid students financially in their journey into this wonderful career,” said Tami Keenan, FAPR, RPR, CPE, Chair of the NCRF Trustees. “NCRF and NCRA are grateful to be able to help honor the memory and legacy of Milton H. Wright through this memorial scholarship. Paying it forward to help others be successful and productive is not only humbling, but it also sets the precedent for others to do the same in the future. Stenograph’s pledge reflects an important virtue that is deeply embraced within the court reporting and captioning community.”

CASE Student Scholarship and more open until April 1

The CASE Student Scholarship is now open! Five scholarships in the amounts of $250, $500, $750, $1000 and $1500 are available. Qualified applicants must attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program, hold student membership in NCRA, and have passed one skills test writing between 140 and 180 wpm among other eligibility requirements. Nominations close April 1. Please visit the CASE Student Scholarship page for full submission details.

In addition, NCRA is seeking nominations from members for a few other awards and scholarships. Now is a great time to recognize that special teacher, court reporter, or captioner who inspired or supported you in your career – or motivate a student by nominating them for a scholarship.

CASE Educator of the YearIf there is a court reporting instructor who helped you in your career who remains unrecognized for his or her many contributions to the professions of court reporting and captioning, now is a great time to show your appreciation. Was there someone special who inspired you, who got you through the ups, downs, and plateaus of your court reporting classes? If a teacher was an incredible influence on you, consider nominating him or her for the CASE Educator of the Year Award. Nominations close April 1.

Fellow of the Academy of Professional ReportersIf you know a dedicated court reporter or captioner who has contributed to the profession in a big way over the years, nominate that person as a Fellow. This prestigious recognition is a sign of your colleagues’ understanding of your special contributions to the fields of court reporting and captioning. Candidates must be active practitioners in the field and have at least 10 years of experience. Criteria for nomination include the publication of important papers, legislative or creative contributions to the field, and service on committees or boards. Nominations close April 1.

NCRA A to Z® scholarshipsUp to 10 students will receive a $500 scholarship. Qualified applicants must have completed the NCRA A to Z ® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program as well as passed a skills test writing between 60 and 100 wpm among other eligibility requirements. Nominations close April 1.

Plaza College court reporting program and NCRA’s A to Z program recognized

QNS posted an article on Feb. 19 about Plaza College’s court reporting program being recognized in celebration of Court Reporting & Captioning Week and notes that it offers the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.

Read more.

Green River College motivates students with pins

Everyone who has been a court reporting student knows the effort that goes into achieving each new speed level. One school, Green River College in Auburn, Wash., recognizes that effort with pins commemorating each success.

The school has been awarding the pins for about 10 years for theory and each speed level between 40 and 225 wpm.

“The pins are very popular with our students,” said Sidney Weldele-Wallace, CRI, CPE, the program director of the Court Reporting & Captioning program. “They serve as tangible incentives for progressing through speed levels as well as a visual reminder of how far they have progressed, since we recommend pinning/placing them where they see them every day during their class/practice sessions. We do pin recognition during one of our CRSA (Court Reporting Student Association) meetings every fall and spring quarter. They are a ‘badge of honor’ that we enjoy giving to our deserving students to let them know how very proud we are of them!”

Weldele-Wallace said she thinks the idea was from an NCRA Teacher’s Workshop and discussions on retention and motivating students to persist and succeed. 

Some students use the pins on their personal vision boards, Weldele-Wallace said.

“I believe they are effective as a motivational tool and recognition of hard work and commitment on their part,” she said.

NCRA student member Rachel Helm is a student at Green River College and said she finds the pins motivating.

“I joke with my classmates that sometimes the thought of a shiny new pin is the only thing that keeps me going,” Helm said. “We all know how easy it is to get overwhelmed and lose sight of the end goal when we’re in school, so the pins are incredibly valuable to me and my peers, no matter how small a reward they might seem to be.”

Helm has the 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, and 140 wpm pins. She is now testing at 160 wpm in jury charge and literary and 180 wpm in testimony.

“I have them stuck in a cork board above my desk, so I look at them every time I sit down to practice,” Helm said. “We only get a pin when we’ve passed all three categories in that speed, so it’s extra satisfying once they’re in hand. You know you’ve really mastered that speed, through and through.”

Eh to Zed

By Janice Plomp and Joanne McKenzie

After attending an information session introducing the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program at the Las Vegas NCRA Convention & Expo in 2017, we knew it was the perfect tool to ensure we were getting the “right” students into our program. The Captioning and Court Reporting program at the Northern Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta, is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary and has a reputation across North America for being an excellent program with an above-average graduation rate. However, as a publicly funded school, we are always looking for ways to increase our key performance indicators.

In September 2017, we welcomed 26 eager participants to our first NCRA A to Z program. We emphasized to all that it was a “try it before you buy it” opportunity. Our expectations were low as we headed into this unknown territory, but 20 of them completed the program, and many asked if they could do it again, and they did!

NCRA A to Z does everything we hoped it would do: Attract potential applicants, teach the basics of machine shorthand, help participants make informed decisions about their future, and increase awareness about the profession. But that’s not the whole story. Our Canadian court reporting community rallied behind us. Local reporters and captioners volunteered their time to lead a session and share their experience and their enthusiasm for this great profession. As we expanded our program to include synchronous online participants in 2018, others were quick to dust off their old machines and deliver them to out-of-town and out-of-province participants and offer their time as mentors. Our provincial association, the Alberta Shorthand Reporters Association, sponsors snacks each week for the on-site participants.

NCRA President Max Curry, left, with NAIT students. Those who completed the NCRA A to Z are shown raising their hands.

More importantly, our NCRA A to Z participants benefited as well. A sense of community developed between the participants over the six weeks, and those who were accepted into the program had a head start with steno as well as new friendships.

Our fifth NCRA A to Z session began October 28. We have 20 participants registered and a waiting list for our February session. We are increasing the number of sessions for 2020 by adding a third offering to ensure all applicants to our program have an opportunity to attend. Our marketing is primarily through NAIT’s annual Open House event, sharing the flyer through social media, and the NCRA A to Z registration.

It is too early to see any real changes in our graduation rate, but one thing we know for sure: We have a new and exciting way to encourage people to join our profession. Thank you, NCRA, for spearheading this initiative and increasing awareness about court reporting and captioning.

Janice Plomp, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, is a captioner and instructor based in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, and Joanne McKenzie, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, is a captioner, freelancer, and instructor from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Plomp can be reached at jplomp@shaw.ca. McKenzie can be reached at joannem@nait.ca.

It’s that magical time of year again for the annual NCRA Student Skills Contest

In celebration of Court Reporting & Captioning Week being held Feb. 8 – 15, 2020, the NCRA Student/Teacher Committee is sponsoring a Walt Disney themed skills contest that will be offered to all students at varying dictation speeds.  The tests (Literary and Q&A) consist of five minutes of dictation at a speed level commensurate with the current level of speed building each individual student is striving to achieve or has just successfully achieved.  In order to be eligible to win, students must pass one of the tests with 96 percent accuracy.  The faculty at each school will be responsible for dictating and grading the material which will be provided by the Student/Teacher Committee. *

How to win:  All students who successfully pass a test are eligible for prizes.  Winners will be drawn at random for first, second, and third place prizes among all the names of winners that are forwarded to Ellen Goff at NCRA Headquarters by March 2, 2020.

  • Walt Disney Grand Prize (1st):  NCRA’s RPR Study Guide ($125 value)
  • Mickey Mouse Prize (2nd):  Choice of a one-year NCRA Student Membership ($55 value) or one leg of the RPR Skills Test (72.50 value)
  • Minnie Mouse Prize (3rd):  $25 Starbucks Gift Card

All students who participate in the contest, even if they don’t pass a skills test, will have their names and schools published in the NCRA Student Newsletter and thejcr.com.  NCRA wants to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions.

Let’s have some fun and make sure your school’s name is showcased as well as your own!  We’ve had an impressive number of students participating the past couple years.  Let’s see if we can make that number even larger in 2020!  Grab those Disney good luck charms and your magical Tinker Bell pixie dust and prepare to join the fun and camaraderie with your fellow students across the land as you endeavor to give this competition a whirl!  Whose school will have the most participants?  Will it be yours?  We don’t care if you’re at 60 WPM or 225 WPM.  This contest is for you!

As Walt Disney himself said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”  Let’s pursue this dream of competing in this contest and enjoying the fine cast of Disney characters who will entertain you with these skills dictations.  What do you have to lose? 

The annual NCRA Conference & Expo this year is in Orlando, Fla, Aug. 6-9, at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.   Mark your calendars.  We’ve got a great line-up planned!

For more information, feel free to contact Debbie Kriegshauser at deborah0841@att.net or Ellen Goff at egoff@ncra.org.

*Full details and rules for the contest will be sent to your school’s faculty, so please make sure they know you would like to participate in case they fail to receive the material through the appropriate channels. We will make sure they receive it.

From accounting to court reporting in Alabama

Student Savannah Ray started out as an accounting student, but she changed paths to court reporting thanks to encouragement from her mother.

UTS | Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school, or did you have another career first?

SR | I’m an Alabama native, and I have lived in Gadsden for more than five years now.  I decided in my senior year of high school I would be going to Gadsden State to earn an accounting degree. I realized very quickly during my first semester that it wasn’t something that would make a fulfilling career for me because I didn’t really have as much interest in it as I thought.

UTS | How did you first get the idea of being a court reporter?

SR | Well, after I decided accounting wasn’t the path I wanted to take, I mentioned to my mom how I felt lost and was unsure of what to do anymore. She had taken the court reporting program for a brief period before and told me it couldn’t hurt to look into it. I did some research and fell in love with the profession. It kind of lit a fire in me and reignited my excitement for college. I started the program in August 2018 and haven’t looked back since!

UTS | What skill sets do you think would be helpful for a court reporter to possess?

SR | Time management and good concentration have been crucial for me through school. Our instructors hold us to the same standard we’ll have in the working world, so you have to learn to manage your workload in a timely manner and to focus on writing and editing for hours at a time if that’s what is needed.

UTS | What kinds of challenges have you faced during your court reporting program?

SR | The biggest challenge for me was accepting that sometimes you’ll fail. In the path to becoming a court reporter, you’re faced with the hard truth that you won’t always be able to pass every speed the first time you take it. Sometimes you’ll get stuck. There were times I’d really beat myself up over that, but that only held me back even more. Now I try to see not passing in a more positive light, it’s an experience I learned from that’ll help me improve in my future work.

UTS | Have you had a mentor help you out while in school? If yes, how has that helped? If no…how could a mentor help you?

SR | Yes, I recently got a mentor! She’s been lovely and very supportive. Any time I post about my progress she always sends me encouragement, and she’s even helped me to be able to go to my first conference this month which I’m really excited about.

 UTS | Where do you see yourself in five years?

SR | My dream job is to become an official so hopefully in five years I’ll have been able to achieve that.

UTS | What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

SR | My instructor Michelle once told us to remember that this is our own race to run and it’s not about when you cross the finish line, it’s just about getting across it. That’s really motivated me in the moments when I’m feeling stuck because even if it takes time, I’ll get through those rough spots and make it to my finish line.

UTS | If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning?

SR | I’d tell them about how, with a lot of hard work, you’ll be able to have a skill that not a lot of other people can say they have, writing at 225 words per minute with 95 percent accuracy is an amazing thing to be able to do. There’s also a large amount of job opportunities in the field right now with a potential to earn a nice income.

UTS | Where do you see the profession of court reporting and captioning 10 years from now? Do you think technology will help or hurt the profession?

SR | I feel like advances in technology can be a big help to reporters if we put in the time to learn and master it. Students now can do things that years ago weren’t possible. If we can continue to adapt technology to be an aide to us and work to raise awareness about the profession to younger people, our profession can thrive for years to come.

Savannah Ray is a student at Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala.

Plaza College hosts NCRA A to Z® program in local high school

Plaza College, located in the borough of Queens, is home to the only court reporting program in New York City. With the nationwide shortage of court reporters, Plaza focuses on strongly advocating for the profession. In an effort to educate local youth on the opportunities available in stenography, the college hosted the first ever NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program for high school students, in which 15 students enrolled.

Karen Santucci, CRI, director of the court reporting program at Plaza College, said “When the students arrived for the first week of class, I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and furthermore with their dexterity. They were so thrilled with learning how to use the machine that they were persistent about moving through the alphabet at a quicker pace!”

The high school program was held over the course of four weeks in October 2019. During the course, the students were led through an introductory understanding of what stenographers do, how to get comfortable with the machine, and how to begin writing the alphabet and numbers, as well as some words.

The students were impressed by the benefits of a career in court reporting, especially the luxury of creating their own work schedule. Derek Ayala, a senior at Robert HGoddard High School of Communication Arts and Technology in Ozone Park, was buzzing after completing the course. “Learning the basics of court reporting has been really interesting. Before Plaza offered NCRA A to Z to our school, I didn’t know about the industry and all of the flexibility that comes with it,” he said.

Plaza College will continue to introduce stenography to a younger audience to help grow the profession. Santucci is optimistic that this effort will produce a lasting outcome.

“This is a career opportunity that unfortunately so many students are unaware of,” she said. “Changing that can breathe a new life into a career in court reporting.”

Plaza College plans to host its next high school A to Z program during its spring 2020 term.

For more information about NCRA’s A to Z® program or DiscoverSteno, visit NCRA/discoversteno.org.

Karen Santucci, CRI, is from Forest Hills, N.Y., and is the director of the court reporting program at Plaza College. She can be reached at ksantucci@plazacollege.edu.