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.

Deadline nears for new Stenograph student scholarship

The deadline for nominations for Stenograph’s Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, a new scholarship that honors the memory of Milton H. Wright, Stenograph’s founder, is Feb. 14. The scholarship is being supported by Stenograph and offered through the National Court Reporters Foundation. Students from NCRA-approved reporter education programs are encouraged to apply for 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.

“Stenograph is proud to sponsor the newly created Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship,” said Stenograph President Anir Dutta. “We believe that by investing in our students and future students, through the NCRA’s A to Z Program, that we will positively impact the direction of this industry. It is an honor to be able to give back in this way.” 

This scholarship is offered through the National Court Reporters Foundation. Students must meet the eligibility requirements and submit the completed documentation listed below to qualify for the scholarship. Notification of the MHW Memorial Scholarship is sent each November to all NCRA-approved court reporting programs.

Applications are being accepted through Feb. 14, 2020. 

Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, students must 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 

Document requirements

The following documents are required to be submitted for application:

  • Speed verification form
  • A copy of the student’s most recent transcript
  • A two-page, double-spaced essay responding to the following question: “Describe the role of technology in the future of reporting.”

Click here for more information or to access the application for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship.

“Stenograph’s commitment to the future of the court reporting and captioning professions is reflected in the company’s generous support of the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, and NCRF and NCRA are honored to share this common goal with them,” said NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification Cynthia Bruce Andrews.  

For more information on the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, please contact the NCRA Education Department at schools@ncra.org

Inside the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program

A 2017 survey of NCRA members revealed that 75 percent of the membership has been in the court reporting profession for 16 or more years. In fact, 64 percent have been in the profession for 21-plus years.  With that much tenure, it may be difficult to recall what life was like before court reporting.  In an effort to learn more about the experiences and motivations of the next generation of court reporters, as well as to experience steno firsthand, NCRA Marketing Manager Elisa Cohen recently took the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program.  During the program, three fellow participants who completed it agreed to share their stories:  

  • Jessica Pell, a correctional officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who has four children and an encouraging mother-in-law in the profession;
  • Jeff Spears, a 38-year-old telecommunications technician from Kentucky, who lives in Texas with his wife and two young children; and
  • Arlisia Stansberry, a single mother with an established career as a corporate nurse, who is ready to begin a new career path in the field that has interested her since high school.

Each of these participants decided to investigate a career in court reporting as a result of a recommendation. While serving on a jury in San Antonio, Spears was told of the court reporter shortage from the presiding judge. The suggestion particularly resonated with him. With injuries from his athletic childhood, his earlier landscaping business, and two recent knee surgeries as a result of climbing phone polls for a living, Spears is eager to be able to support his family with a job that isn’t so physically demanding.

Pell learned of the profession, and the A to Z program, from her mother-in-law, who has been a court reporter for more than 10 years. The program reinforced Pell’s interest in the court reporting profession. “It was a lot of fun! I learned so much during a short time and feel I have a strong understanding of the basics,” Pell said about the A to Z program.

Stansberry learned about the A to Z program from one of her former high school classmates, who has been in the court reporting profession more than 20 years. When she was just out of high school, her classmate inspired her to start court reporting school. She took only one level before switching to a nursing career at the suggestion of her mother. “I loved shorthand. Always felt a calling for court reporting. But with young kids, as a single mom, I couldn’t go to school and keep a full-time job,” she explained.

After a full career involving extensive travel as a corporate nurse, Stansberry had an epiphany one late night and pulled out her old green steno machine.

However, the similarities among these participants end when discussing what interests them about the profession.

Pell finds it fun and is interested in learning every aspect of steno. “It’s like learning a language within a language,” she explained.

Spears, who hopes to become an official reporter, feels driven to civil service by his father’s example as a police officer.

And Stansberry? She is fascinated by the ability to type verbatim what is being said: “Amazing to me, just amazing to me, how you put those letters together. I don’t see PL anymore, I see M. It’s just weird.”

When it comes to discussing the obstacles that may lay ahead, the unifying concern among these participants is time. Pell is concerned that her “crazy” work hours as a correctional officer combined with the demands of her four children will get in the way of her practice time. Spears has similar concerns, since he homeschools his children and may get distracted by the needs of his 3- and 8-year-olds. As for Stansberry, her current job requires extensive air travel, which might impact when she will be able to take classes and practice.

We asked each participant what they want to ask of experienced court reporters. Pell is most curious about what can be done when stuck at a speed plateau. Stansberry wants to know how to manage staying awake for hours and keeping calm from some of the things that are said during trials or depositions. And when Spears was asked if he had any questions of experienced court reporters or captioners, he replied: “Holy cow.  I’ve got about 78 of them!”

The good news: After completing the six-week training in the A to Z program, each of these participants are planning to enroll in court reporting school as soon as possible.

The next online A to Z classes start Jan. 27 at 6:30 Eastern; Feb. 10 asynchronous; and April 9 at 8 p.m. Central.

Oklahoma State University announces launch of court reporting program

In a press release issued Dec. 4, Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City announced that it will be launching a new court reporting program in the spring of 2020 to help address the crucial shortage of professionals in the state.

Read more.

WCRA presents to University of Wisconsin-Madison law students


Court reporting student Kasey Anderson, WCRA Board Member Kristen Wurgler, attorney Jason Knutson

By Kristen Wurgler, RPR

On behalf of the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association, I had the great fortune to create and present a PowerPoint slide show for a pre-trial advocacy class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School in October. It was a neat experience for all involved. Let me explain how this came about.

Erica Schueler, a WCRA board member, sent letters of inquiry to law programs in Wisconsin to spark some interest in having WCRA present to law students about court reporting. After receiving this letter, the law school passed the letter on to instructors who might be interested in the experience. Attorney Jason Knutson from Habush Habush & Rottier was the instructor for a class on pre-trial advocacy. He decided a presentation by WCRA was a really valuable opportunity for his students. I answered Erica’s call for a presenter because I work at UW-Madison. WCRA is very interested in forging an early relationship with law students so that they could have an early exposure to court reporters, see the relationship between the two professions, provide some tips for attorneys, and understand the attorneys’ responsibility in creating a good record. The presentation was entitled “Making the Record” and was adapted from NCRA’s 2016 guide of the same name. [Ed Note: While the document was originally published by NCRA, it is currently offered as a resource through the organization’s charitable arm, the National Court Reporters Foundation. You can find more materials here.]

The plan for the pre-trial advocacy class was that I would present a PowerPoint for about 30 minutes, which would outline tips for making a good record. Then the students would split into teams and have mock depositions. When I heard the plan for the day, I was determined to get court reporting students involved. I invited Madison College court reporting students to attend so that they could also be a part of this role-playing activity. The court reporting students could set up their steno machines and laptops and then have the practice of swearing in “witnesses,” writing depo material, asking for clarification from witnesses, and/or prompting witnesses to speak up. This was the perfect opportunity for court reporting students to gain confidence in using their voice to control a deposition and practice writing. But, in addition, the hope was that the experience would motivate them by showing them how good their steno skills are, which in turn, might provide a little positivity and propel them to complete their court reporting degrees. 

Student Kasey Anderson from MATC jumped on the opportunity. So on a very rainy October day, Kasey and I met at the law school and talked about the plan for the class. We both put our steno machines in plain sight so that law students would have the opportunity to see them, strike the keys, and have the chance to write a bit. The “Making the Record” presentation stressed the relationship between attorneys and court reporters and provided many tips for creating a good record such as: pausing and thinking before speaking, not speaking too fast, identifying important information for the court reporter, spelling technical terms or odd spellings of proper nouns, judicial etiquette of speaking one at a time, and respecting the court reporter’s need for breaks. 

I had handouts for the students. One was the NCRA Making the Record Guide from which the PowerPoint was created. The second was a diagram of the steno keyboard. We even went through an exercise where I taught the student-attorneys how to write Bucky on the steno keyboard. After I explained how the steno machine worked, I wanted them to have hands-on experience with the complicated nature of court reporting. I heard many protestations as we worked through the hand gymnastics of writing Bucky on their faux steno keyboards.

After the presentation, the student attorneys broke into groups of three and practiced deposition procedures. One was the plaintiff attorney, one the defense attorney, and one a deponent. The plan was that each group would rotate to Kasey at least once, so they could have the experience of sitting with the court reporter. 

During the first rotation, I sat with Kasey so that I could swear in the witness and she could watch and listen. I think it was good for her to see that the court reporter is allowed to have a voice and can use it to get a deposition off to a good start. I explained to the deponent about deposition ground rules (i.e. audible answers, wait until the full question is asked before answering, etc.) and then swore in the witness so that Kasey could understand the flow. The student-attorneys spelled their names for Kasey slowly and let her know who they represented. Every once in a while, one of the student attorneys would look our way sheepishly because of a stray vocalization of something that went against the tips from the PowerPoint.  This led Kasey to feel comfortable using her voice when she requested one of them to speak up or ask for a clarification. It was awesome! It was good see the student-attorneys stumbling and asking Kasey not to judge because they had never done a depo before. This was a good reminder that everybody has to start somewhere!

As the groups would rotate over to Kasey, she and I had the opportunity to chat about how things were going for her. I had a couple helpful hints for her about how to handle things in the moment, such as writing a name or word consistently for editing later (i.e., name Barebosasei became Bee* for a trash global later). We talked about the swearing-in process and how to handle witnesses who wouldn’t take an oath. 

Overall, I think it was an uplifting experience because the pace was manageable. Court reporting students are beaten down every day with skills tests. Kasey learned how skilled she truly is on her steno machine and gained invaluable confidence. Later I jumped into some of the groups and became various groups’ court reporter. Although I’ve been involved in CART for the last 12 years, it was amazing how quickly the rhythm of Q&A came back to me!

I hope one of you will consider an outreach opportunity such as this. The PowerPoint and handouts are the property of WCRA. It was written so anyone can get a copy and modify it to fit the presentation one is doing.  The same goes for all the handouts. 

The WCRA Board is hoping this presentation to new lawyers becomes an annual event for the two law schools in Wisconsin. When students first begin law school, they are learning all about the necessary skills they need as an attorney, such as an understanding of the law, how to put a case together, how to represent clients, and the art of thoughtful persuasion. But if we can take this opportunity to train them to remember that their words are the record, we take a big step toward creating an effective, usable transcript produced by a human being – not a robot.

Please feel free to contact me, Kristen.wurgler@wisc.edu, if you are interested in presenting in the future or would like access to any of the materials discussed.

Kristen Wurgler, RPR, is a WCRA board member in Madison, Wis.

Naegeli announces new scholarship

Naegeli Deposition & Trial has announced a new scholarship to inspire creativity and assist student leaders with self-development.

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General Requirements and Minimum Standards updated

In August 2019, NCRA’s Board of Directors approved changes to the General Requirements and Minimum Standards (GRMS) required for NCRA-approved court reporting programs. The Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) proposed a way to recognize court reporting programs that don’t participate in Title IV funding but want to be among the court reporting programs approved by NCRA. The change created a Tier II eligibility, such as the standards that are required for teaching a realtime reporting program, and the expectations of NCRA for educational programs.

“NCRA and the Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) are providing an avenue by which court reporting programs that don’t participate in Title IV funding but are licensed in their state are eligible to become an NCRA-approved program,” explained Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA’s Senior Director of Education and Certification. “With the success of the NCRA A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand, we are looking forward to approving more court reporting programs.”

Changes to the GRMS that reflect the best practices have taken effect on Oct. 1, 2019. All new applications for NCRA approval must reflect a program’s compliance with the new GRMS.

If you have any questions, contact Cynthia Bruce Andrews, Senior Director of Education and Certification, at 703-584-9058 or candrews@ncra.org.

Why you need to consider a career in court reporting

On Sept. 28, Conscious Life News posted an article about the pros of choosing a career in court reporting.

Read more.