Get ready for liftoff, Career Launcher program heading to launch pad

By Debbie Dibble

Career Launcher — you’ve heard about it, you’ve seen the iconic rocket, but do you really know what it is? This new program is a cutting-edge, innovative virtual internship program that has been developed by the National Court Reporters Foundation Corinne Clark Professionalism Institute, designed from the ground up to jump-start the careers of new professionals and to be a valuable training resource on deposition procedures and transcript preparation for schools and agencies alike.  

Whether you’re preparing for your first deposition or have been working in the trenches for three years, five years, or more than 20, you can learn something from Career Launcher.

Anyone can participate in this program, whether as a candidate watching the simulated depositions online and preparing transcripts or volunteering as a reviewer or providing valuable online mentorship to new professionals participating in the program. For those of you with decades of invaluable experience, this is the opportunity for you to ensure that your knowledge will be passed on to the next generation of reporters, securing a bright future for this profession that has changed so many of our lives for the better.

Career Launcher is a video-based, online training system consisting of 10 mock deposition modules. Court reporting students, new professionals, or anyone who needs a crash course in the life of a deposition reporter can work through the modules at their own pace. Here is a sneak peek of the modules:

  • Module 1: Examination Under Oath — “Case of the Missing Garden Tools”
  • Module 2: Car Wreck (plaintiff medical) — “Who’s Right When You’re Making a Left”
  • Module 3: Slip and Fall (personal injury) — “When You ‘Bearly’ Have a Leg to Stand on”
  • Module 4: Workers Comp (hearing) — “When the Witness is a Total Wreck”
  • Module 5:  Divorce — “You’ll Really Want to Divorce Yourself from These Proceedings”
  • Module 6: Employment (interpreted) — “Misinterpreting the Best of Intentions”
  • Module 7: Corporate Representative — “Don’t Count Your Chickens, Brother”
  • Module 8: International Trade Commission (ITC) Patent — “To Be or Not to Be… On the Record”
  • Module 9: Business Litigation — “Patent Pending”
  • Module 10:  Heavy Medical —“What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted”

These 10 modules are extensive simulations of all elements of deposition reporting, from interfacing with the receptionist, meeting the parties, reporting the deposition, all the way through to getting client orders and packing up. Candidates will be exposed to all elements of court reporting in the deposition setting; such as when to arrive, swearing or affirming, where to sit, marking exhibits, going on and off the record, redactions, stipulations, exhibit custody, arguing attorneys, mumbling witnesses, drafts, awkward situations, and so much more.

Why is this program such a great value to our profession? As the employment model for freelance reporters has shifted away from local firms with in-house reporters to a more decentralized, nationwide model, the access to one-on-one mentoring by a peer at the next desk has almost vanished. The Career Launcher team’s goal was to create a master class on all the everyday on-the-job elements of depositions, the things they can’t teach you in school.

According to Career Launcher team member Mike Miller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and agency owner from Houston, Texas, “As we have interacted with court reporting students during the creation of this program, it has become obvious that this program is long overdue. Many high-speed students and new professionals are completing their educational pursuits without ever dealing with multiple speakers, objections, or colloquy, not to mention never encountering the myriad things that can go wrong on any given day during a deposition. This program exposes them to all these things and more.”

There are two major focuses of this program: Overall deposition processes and transcript preparation. Many school curricula require internship hours for graduation, but is 40 hours, the equivalent of five to six depositions, enough time to expose a new reporter to the intricacies with which freelance reporters deal on a daily basis? A reporter may be on the job for five years and never have an interpreted deposition. This program is deposition espresso, distilling decades of on-the-job experiences into short, easy-to-consume mock depos that will give new professionals the jolt their careers need.

The second element is transcript preparation. Some court reporting students aren’t exposed to much more than speedbuilding, with some graduating with no more than a rudimentary foundation in transcript preparation or start working before completing a program.

Career Launcher team member Kevin Hunt shared with student beta testers: “You may be the purest writer in the world, you may know every trick possible in your CAT software, but what really determines your reputation as a reporter is your ability to produce an accurate, verbatim, high-quality transcript.”

The Career Launcher team knew that real in-the-trenches court reporting students would be the ultimate arbiter of the quality of this program, so they reached out to some high-speed students to beta test all the modules. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Brad: What I really liked was … just going through the day‑to‑day routine things that we might not think of, from talking to the receptionist to having people sit where you can hear best. It was stuff like that that I really liked because that’s stuff we’re going to encounter … you showed from the time you arrived at the lawyer’s office to the time you left, until the time the deposition was over, so I thought that was super important and helpful. 

Michaela: I really enjoyed doing these. The videos were just beautifully made. Right from the beginning I was like, ‘Wow, she wasn’t kidding.’ You guys did an awesome job! Getting that experience now, I know what to expect. It’s just a beautiful program that you guys created, and it’s going to help so many reporters be ready for the field.

Erica: The videos were so professional. The audio was clear. You could tell what was happening. It even paused to let you start and end. The reporter at the end would give you tips and tricks and explain the video. All the resources, just so much information in there. It was so easy to do.

Be a mentor

The Career Launcher program needs seasoned reporters who have spent their careers in the freelance world to share that knowledge with those who are soon to take our profession into a strong future. As candidates complete modules, they will submit their transcripts to a pool of reviewers who, with the help of the master reviewer key, will review the transcripts with an eye toward critical errors. The Career Launcher program has used the NCRA standard guidelines as its model for transcript production, but students will use the formats, parentheticals, and layouts that they have learned all over the country and throughout the world. Reviewers will be evaluating these transcripts with the idea that, if it’s not wrong, then it’s right. The transcript may not look like the formatting used in Pennsylvania or Texas, but the focus for this program, among other things, will be on whether the objections are in colloquy and are all the parties on the appearance page.

The candidate will receive either a “pass” or a “pending” status from the reviewer. If the reviewer believes critical errors would need to be addressed before that transcript could go out the door to a client, then the reviewer will mentor the candidate on those items. The candidate will then correct those elements necessary to show mastery of the concepts and then will receive a “pass.” Once a candidate completes all 10 modules, they will be able to call themselves Career Launcher Certified to prospective employers in the industry.

Not only can new professionals choose to complete the program on their own, but court reporting educators are augmenting their deposition procedures courses by incorporating Career Launcher into their curriculum. Court reporting agencies are already embracing the program with plans to implement this as their in-house training tool before sending new hires out on their first deposition.

We are so excited to see this program launching careers into the universe in the coming year.   You do not want to miss your opportunity to be at Mission Control for the Career Launcher team webinar showcasing this new program. Watch for details about this webinar and information about registration coming soon! 

Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter and captioner based in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as NCRA’s President Elect. She can be reached at ddib06@gmail.com.

New deadline for Student Intern Scholarship

The National Court Reporters Foundation Student Intern Scholarship deadline has been extended to Dec. 31. Two $1,000 awards will be given to qualified court reporting students who have completed their internship. Eligibility requirements include current NCRA student membership, speed test requirements, and a minimum 3.5 GPA. Applicants will be required to submit a nomination form, letter of recommendation, and an essay. Judicial, CART, and captioning students are encouraged to apply. Please visit the NCRF Student Intern Scholarship page for full submission details.

Stenograph partners with NCRF again to sponsor student scholarship

The National Court Reporters Foundation is pleased to announce that nominations are being solicited for Stenograph’s Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, a scholarship that honors the memory of Stenograph’s founder. 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.

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 being accepted through Jan. 23, 2021. 

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: “What is one problem that you see facing the professions of court reporting and captioning today, and how would you propose to solve it through the use of technology?”

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

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

You got this! You can do it!

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC

By Debbie Kriegshauser

“You will learn from those challenges. You will attain that speed level. Changing your behaviors, overcoming negative habits, it’s challenging. It’s hard. You have to talk to your inner self and come to the realization that you have to get rid of self-doubt and negative thoughts.”

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, Chair of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, and an official reporter in Dallas, Texas, gives students a pep talk.

I recently listened to a motivational speaker through a TED talk that was posted online. What this man had to say was amazing, and I couldn’t say it any better, so I’d like to share a few of his comments when it comes to dealing with the frustrations and setbacks in the speed building universe of court reporting school.

We all need to set goals. What is it that you’re trying to accomplish at the moment? What is the next speed level you need to attain? How will you get there?

You have greatness within you. You have the ability to do more than you can ever begin to imagine. Anybody, through hard work and practice, can perform at a level of excellence, but when you’re doubting your greatness and you don’t know what your limits are, it’s easy to act like you don’t have it within you to succeed. You must believe you have something special. You have greatness within you. You do have the ability to become a great reporter or captioner.

Failure is not an option. You have to say to yourself over and over, “I will fail my way to succeed,” and say it again, “I will fail my way to succeed.” You will fail many speedbuilding tests along your journey, but you also have what it takes to accomplish that goal. Don’t let your mindset play games with you. Begin to believe and feed that belief by listening to other working reporters, going to seminars offered online, and attending reporting conventions. You will walk away with a sense of pride and will be so pumped up and ready to challenge yourself, believe in yourself, ready to stretch yourself to the next speed building level.

Challenge yourself, and make it OK to fail and learn by your failures. Don’t allow the fear of failure to bring you down. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and figure out what it is that’s tripping you up and work on that. Practice those tripping hazards over and over until it feels comfortable. Consult with your mentor, if you have one, or seek out a mentor that can get you through the tough times.

Another thing to keep in mind is:  Detoxify your life. There’s a lot of people who never achieve their true goals in life because they’re surrounded with too many toxic, negative, energy-draining people. You’ve got to look at the people in your life and ask yourself:  What is this relationship or friendship doing to me? How is it impacting my life, my learning ability, and my comprehension? Are they an asset to me or a liability? Are they always bringing me down and causing me to have that negative mindset of thoughts of constant failure? Do they elevate my spirits or constantly tear me down?

Hang around people who you can learn from. If you’re the smartest person in the group, find a new group so you can continue to learn from others. There are two types of people: Nourishing people and toxic people. Nourishing people bring the best out of you. They encourage you. They inspire you. They hold you accountable. Toxic people are critical people. They always tell you what you can’t do when they haven’t done it themselves. Don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do. They don’t know what’s possible for you. Think about some people that you need to bring into your life that you can learn from and that you can grow from.

When you’re uncomfortable and you’re stretching for the higher speed and you’re grabbing that challenge by the collar, you’re going to get thrown to the ground again and again and again. But when you have the determination and know that what you’re doing is right, that gives you energy and drive and empowers you to do your best. You will learn from those challenges. You will attain that speed level. Changing your behaviors, overcoming negative habits, it’s challenging. It’s hard. You have to talk to your inner self and come to the realization that you have to get rid of self-doubt and negative thoughts.

In the trials and tribulations of court reporting school and training to become a court reporter or captioner, you are the star of the show. You are the director. You are writing the script, and you will be the one who will determine whether your ultimate goal in life to be a court reporter or captioner is a smash hit or a flop. You determine that. Working on yourself, talking to yourself, that’s so very important. Overcoming that negative conversation, that inner dialogue that’s going on all the time in your head is vital. You need to stand up to yourself and empower yourself to know that you can really accomplish your goals and dreams. Yes, it’s hard work and effort but hard work and effort will pay off in the end. Your reporting skills will take you places that are literally amazing, and you’ll develop a strong sense of happiness.

Your Oscar award is waiting to be claimed. Just remember: We’ve all been there and we’re all here for you! Use your resources wisely!

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, is the Chair of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee and an official reporter in Dallas, Texas

‘You’ll thank me later’

By Loretta Berrigan

Loretta Berrigan

Loretta Berrigan, a court reporting student at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa., has only been in school for little over a year, but she is already finding a valuable way to contribute by participating in her school’s peer tutoring program. “Cut to a few weeks since I’ve started tutoring my peers, and you’ll find me singing a whole different tune. I know how cliché this sounds, but I like to think that they help me just as much as I help them.”

In trying to learn remotely and adjusting to this new normal, peer tutoring looks a bit different than it did when we were all on campus together. For us, peer tutoring consists of getting together on Zoom at a designated time for review sessions, and it gives me the chance to meet the students who are a year below me and really just getting started in the program. I do dictation of words, phrases, and sentences so they can work on accuracy, which will help them when they get to speedbuilding.

When my professor/supervisor/advisor/unofficial therapist, Mary Beth Johnson, CRI, first approached me about doing some peer tutoring for those in the year below me, my first instinct was to panic, especially because I was, and still am, working on my own speeds and trying to get out of my own head and through my own roadblocks. In my head I was screaming, “But Mary Beth, I need a tutor!” But because I want to be an asset to the program in any way that I can, I took a deep breath and told myself that perhaps it would be beneficial for not only the students I would be tutoring, but for myself as well.

Cut to a few weeks since I’ve started tutoring my peers, and you’ll find me singing a whole different tune. I know how cliché this sounds, but I like to think that they help me just as much as I help them. Some of the time is spent with me dictating words, phrases, and sentences for them to write. And then some of the time, which is just as important, is spent just talking back and forth about successes and struggles and providing moral support and comic relief. It makes me feel good to be able to talk with newer students and offer suggestions on how I got through theory, especially the dreaded word lists. (You all know what I’m talking about.) But more so than that, it keeps me driven and helps me to remember where I was just a year ago and how far I’ve come over the course of that year. So, if you ever get the chance to become a peer tutor I would say to agree and panic simultaneously. You’ll thank me later.

Loretta Berrigan is a court reporting student at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa.

NCRA President helps bring success to student virtual symposium

Last month Plaza College in Forest Hills, N.Y., hosted its 2020 Virtual Annual Court Reporting Symposium. Though this was the college’s fourth such event, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the school to follow suit like so many other organizations and host it virtually.

Among the highlights, according to the program’s director Karen Santucci, CRI, was the program’s keynote speaker NCRA President Christine Phipps, RPR, a freelance court reporter and agency owner from North Palm Beach, Fla.

“I was so honored to be asked to speak to the students who attended Plaza College’s annual event. Our students are the future for our profession, and I was so impressed by how they successfully pivoted to a virtual event in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Phipps said.

“Their questions were inquisitive, thoughtful, insightful, and, clearly, nothing is going to stop them from obtaining their goals to become professional working reporters or captioners. I would urge anyone who has the opportunity to interact with court reporting students in any way to do so because it is such a rewarding experience,” she added.

According to Santucci, she and the college’s president, Charles E. Callahan III, knew they could not disappoint the community by not holding the symposium. Aside from demonstrating that distance could not separate the community, participants were able to connect from the safety of their own homes while hearing about how the profession has been strengthened during the pandemic.

The JCR Weekly reached out to Santucci to learn more about how Plaza College hosted such a successful event and what some of the other highlights were. Below is what she shared.

JCR | Can you share some insights about the challenges of putting a virtual event like this together?

KS | The college has been hosting virtual events throughout the pandemic. Our mission was to ensure that the event would hold significance for all participants. Usually the symposium is a networking event where students physically hand their resumes to agencies. Although the physical aspect of networking had to be adapted, the virtual symposium allowed participants to come together and exchange contact information during a time when the need for new court reporters is growing and urgent. We were proud to successfully execute an event that everyone felt involved in! The professionals and students were communicating via the chat, asking questions and offering advice.

JCR | How did you advertise the event?

KS | Our team strategized a multi-level approach that consisted of emailing and calling current and prospective Plaza College students, state associations, agencies, and members of the community to inform them of the event. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful network of support surrounding our court reporting program. Some members of our team were even posting about it on their social media accounts and reminding their friends and colleagues.

JCR | Who was invited to attend and from how far away did they come?

KS | The benefit of having a virtual event is that the cost of a plane ticket has been replaced with access to Zoom. NCRA President Phipps was able to join us from her home in Florida. The event had participants from throughout New York as well as Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, and Connecticut, as well as some international representation.

JCR | What was the format for the event? 

KS | The format mostly consisted of a question and answer session for each of our eight panel members. The questions were sent in to us by prospective and current students. The biggest highlight of the evening was NCRA President Phipps, our keynote speaker, who captivated the audience with her strong, yet eloquent address regarding the strength of the profession in the pandemic.

JCR | Were there different sessions?

KS | The event was livestreamed at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29. Prospective and current students as well as industry professionals who were not able to attend have requested and received a recording of the evening’s event.

JCR | Was there an opportunity for participants to network?

KS | Absolutely! The chat box was full of questions and comments from the audience. Additionally, participants shared their contact information and connected after the event.

JCR | How many presenters did you have?

KS | There were eight panelists in addition to NCRA President Phipps.

JCR | How excited were participants to have NCRA President Phipps as keynote?

KS | At one point, we had more than 180 guests, making it our most attended symposium ever. We believe that this event would not have been nearly as successful without the support from NCRA President Phipps. We advertised to all invited guests that she would be speaking about the strength of the profession during the pandemic.

JCR | What was the overall response to this event?

KC | The response was very positive. We already received questions about when we are hosting another one. The students responded with enthusiasm that attending the symposium reinvigorated their motivation and solidified their decision to enter such a highly regarded profession.

JCR | Did this event result in additional students enrolling in your program?

KS | Yes, our admissions team has received a tremendous amount of inquiries following the symposium.

JCR | Will you do this event again next year?

KS | Our team is currently discussing plans to do one sooner. We will be sure to keep everyone posted. 

JCR | What advice would you give to other schools interested in hosting a similar event?

KS | Hosting a virtual event adds a lot of challenges. It is important to strategize from the beginning so that the execution can match the vision. We even did a few run-throughs in the days leading up the event.

NCRA CASE Scholarship renamed to honor leader of women’s suffrage movement

Sue Shelton White

The NCRA Board of Directors recently approved changing the name of the Association’s $1,500 Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) Student Scholarship to the Sue Shelton White Scholarship in honor of the namesake’s national role in the women’s suffrage movement. The name change takes effect for the 2021 scholarship.

The scholarship is one of five awarded to students by CASE each year. The others are awarded in the amounts of $250, $500, $750, and $1,000.

White was a feminist leader originally from Henderson, Tenn., born on May 25, 1887, who served as a national leader of the women’s suffrage movement, member of the Silent Sentinels, and editor of The Suffragist. She also worked as an official court reporter for the Tennessee Supreme Court from 1907 until 1918 and opened her own stenography business. In 1920, White earned her law degree from the Washington College of Law. In addition to holding leadership positions at the national and state levels of the women’s suffrage movement, she also worked as an administrative secretary to U.S. Sen. Kenneth McKeller from Tennessee and served as lead counsel for the Social Security Administration.

“Sue Shelton White was just not a national leader in promoting women’s rights and equality, she was also an advocate for education as illustrated by her studying to become a court reporter and then pursuing her law degree, especially in a time when it was uncommon to see a female practicing the law,” NCRA Immediate Past President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, a firm owner from Franklin, Tenn., said. “Naming the $1,500 CASE Student Scholarship in her honor recognizes her commitment to hard work and perseverance that is reflected in today’s court reporting students. In addition to being a great leader, she was also a great inspiration to many throughout her life, not just in her home state of Tennessee, but nationally as well.”

To be eligible to apply for an NCRA CASE student scholarship, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program;
  • Hold student membership in NCRA;
  • Have attained an exemplary academic record;
  • Have passed one skills test writing 140-180 words per minute at the time of submission.

Document requirements

Candidates must also submit the following documents with their application:

  • Speed verification form;
  • Three recommendation forms;
  • A copy of the student’s most recent transcript;
  • An essay. 

Notification that applications are being accepted for the CASE student scholarships is sent each February to all NCRA-approved court reporting programs.

NCRA Executive Director Dave Wenhold and Director of State Government Relations Jocelynn Moore recently shared a message talking about Sue Shelton White and reminding everyone of the importance of every vote.

How one NYC college is making strides for the court reporting profession

Who’s tired of hearing, “What is court reporting?” Who’s tired of having to explain what stenography is or that it’s not some “old-fashioned” way of capturing some of our most important historical events? The importance of court reporting cannot be overstated, yet the field is grossly unrecognized across the country. That’s what one college in New York City has set out to change.

Plaza College, located in the borough of Queens, is home to the only court reporting program in America’s largest city. With thousands upon thousands of trials and court proceedings occurring each year in this city alone, it’s a wonder how NYC’s students overlooked the vast opportunity just waiting for them right in their own backyards. And this isn’t just the case in New York. Nationwide, the demand for court reporters is so great that court systems are forced to delay trials, lawyers can’t get someone to come and transcribe depositions, and schools can’t properly provide CART services for disabled students.

Karen Santucci, CRI, director of Plaza College’s program, is optimistic that Plaza’s effort to advocate for the profession and provide a highly trained force of new reporters for NYC will produce a lasting outcome: “This is a career opportunity that, unfortunately, so many students are unaware of, so changing that can breathe a new life into reporting.”

Plaza College is making strides not only for active reporters, but for current students and those who are just beginning to consider a career in court reporting. Every year, Plaza hosts a Court Reporting Symposium, bringing together their students and faculty with court reporters from across the state of New York. Together, they strive to spread the word about the profession, network with each other, and innovate to ensure the future of court reporting. This year’s event will be held virtually on Oct. 29 and features a keynote speech from Christine Phipps, RPR, the president of the National Court Reporters Association.

In addition to providing their students visibility in front of the network of peers which they’ll work with – and for – in the field, Plaza’s court-reporters-in-training benefit from a refreshed curriculum. Plaza College inherited the program from now-closed New York Career Institute in 2017, and since then, the team of industry experts making up Plaza’s faculty and program administration have revamped the way its students get to that magic 225 words-per-minute mark. The success of the program can be truly marked by the success of its students, most recently with the celebration of one of its students earning a Merit Award from Project Steno.

“Our students are making great progress through the curriculum, some even faster than we could have hoped,” explained Santucci. “It’s our vision that the program not only reaches those who already know about court reporting through a friend or family member but that it becomes so popular that students – those right out of high school, those wanting a career change, and all of those in between – come to us from all backgrounds.”

To allow people to take advantage of their time at home during the pandemic, the college has opened its recruitment to prospective students throughout the eastern seaboard. Given that the program is offered fully online, this makes it possible for students from Maine to Florida to get the benefit of a high-quality, real time, progressive program. If they’d like an introduction to stenography before fully enrolling, they can also take advantage of one of the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand sessions offered by Plaza College. The next is being held virtually on Nov. 10, 12, 17, and 19.

“Advocating for this field and providing our peers with ways to connect and put our heads together is so important to us,” Santucci added. “If every court reporter in the country had the opportunity to do so, perhaps it would be possible for our community and our profession to get the recognition it deserves.”

Program helps Texas high school students earn a court reporting degree by graduation

Bertha A. Prieto, RPR

Earlier this month, the El Paso Herald-Post reported that a new program developed through a collaboration between the Socorro Independent School District’s (SISD) Career and Technical Education Department and the El Paso Community College (EPCC), El Paso, Texas, was offering students the pathway to earn an associate degree in court reporting by the time they graduate from high school. The program is offered to students attending the Americas High School Libertas Academy, one of the advanced academic programs offered by SISD. It is geared toward students who wish to pursue a career in government and public administration or law.

The JCR wanted to find out more about this venture and reached out to NCRA member Bertha A. Prieto, RPR, an official state court reporter from El Paso, and a court reporting instructor at EPCC, who was influential in helping to make the program a reality. Here’s what we learned:

JCR | Tell us a little about how this partnership came about. Did EPCC approach the Libertas Academy or vice versa?

BP | Our court reporting program has been very active in recruiting to area high schools. We attend job fairs, “Project Graduation” efforts, and have made presentations at middle schools. The Libertas Academy learned about our program and felt it was an excellent addition and fit to their existing programs which consist of law, government, and public administration. They contacted the Dual Credit program at EPCC where the meetings began.

JCR | Were there any challenges to overcome to make this partnership happen?

BP | Both institutions came together to provide a crosswalk to match the high school and college curricula. The next challenge fell on the Libertas Academy with the budget component to fund the purchase of stenographic machines, books, and online learning system subscriptions, to name a few. Both institutions were very excited about making this partnership happen, so everyone worked tirelessly to do so. This has been a stellar team effort!

JCR | When is this program officially launching or has it already?

BP | The program launched this past summer for the first cohort. The initial course began on May 26. The first and second cohort then partnered for the fall semester and their journey in machine shorthand commenced.

JCR | Where do the students take the class, at the high school or at EPCC?

BP | Students currently enrolled in the program complete EPCC courses online. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the high school students are presently attending school virtually. Once they return to campus, they will remain in an online setting but will be monitored by a facilitator at the Libertas Academy.

JCR | Are you the only instructor?

BP | At this current time, I am the only full-time instructor at El Paso Community College; however, there are additional adjunct instructors who are available to assist with further courses within the program.

JCR | What has been the feedback about the program?

BP | We are halfway into the semester and students are actively participating and continue to be vested in their online learning. The challenge of mastering machine shorthand, coupled with virtual learning, are probably their greatest burden. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, these young students are faced with the difficulty of continuing to be self-motivated and self-disciplined at a time when they do not have face-to-face support among their peers. Nonetheless, their enthusiasm is quite inspiring, and they demonstrate a commitment to thriving in the court reporting program at the Libertas Academy.

JCR | What is the greatest benefit to this partnership?

BP | I believe the greatest benefit to this partnership is the one gained by the students. These students who are enrolled and successfully complete this program will have the opportunity to receive a certificate of completion or a two-year associate degree in court reporting when they graduate from high school. The Libertas Academy offers students the advantage of studying in the areas of law, government, and public administration. Court reporting is a branch of this academy wherein students will gain the skills and confidence to pursue this career at a young age.

JCR | How were funds raised to purchase steno machines?

BP | The following answer was provided by George Thomas, Director of Career Technical Education at the Socorro Independent School District:

We received a Texas CTE Summer grant that supported the machines for the first cohort of students. In the future, we will be purchasing using our CTE state-weighted funding. Each school district in the state of Texas receives weighted or additional funding of 1.35 percent for each full-time equivalent student to support the diverse needs of each program. The funding is spent on teacher and counselor salaries as well as supplies, equipment, technology, software, training, transportation, and contracted services. The students enrolled in our programs draw this state-weighted funding to support all our programs. Courses like speech, law enforcement, and business require less funding, and courses such as welding, electrical technology, and science courses require much more funding to support the needs. Court reporting is a program that will require more funding than it draws, but it all works out in the end.

JCR | How many students will be able to participate in the program at one time?

BP | According to Eduardo Hinojos, Libertas Academy Coordinator:

The goal is to have anywhere between 10 to 15 students begin the program every year as we work to gain a stronger foothold and presence in the region. We started two cohorts simultaneously this past summer. One is comprised of eight sophomore students while the other consists of nine freshmen students.

JCR | How is this being marketed to potential students?

BP | According to Hinojos:

Every fall semester, the Libertas Academy markets its programs to all 8th grade students in every one of the district’s 16 junior high schools. Given the latest addition of the court reporting program, in partnership with EPCC, we will not only present on the career opportunities court reporting offers but also give students an opportunity to hear testimonials from current students in the program. Additionally, we would like for students to see what the machines look like in action by having one of our students and instructors model a lesson. Our marketing plan will also showcase our in-house courtroom that was built specifically for our program. Here, students will be able to witness all facets of the courtroom, wherein they play the role of bailiff, court reporter, attorneys, jury, and judge.

JCR | How long have you worked as a court reporter?

BP | I have worked as a reporter for the past 23 years. Most of my career has been as an official court reporter, though I have also had the opportunity to work as a freelance reporter and court reporting instructor. My aspiration, however, is to one day work as a realtime captioner.

JCR | How did you learn about this profession?

BP | My introduction to this field dated back to when I was in high school. My sister’s friend was a court reporter in the Dallas area, and she felt this would be a good fit for me. In high school, I learned to write shorthand, believing it would help me in this profession, but little did I know that the actual skill would entail learning machine shorthand, a skill I am absolutely proud of.

JCR | What court reporting program did you attend?

BP | I am honored to say that I attended the very same school where I currently teach court reporting, El Paso Community College.

JCR | What has been the greatest aspect of this career for you?

BP | Where should I begin? Being able to work both as an official court reporter and instructor have given me the opportunity to embrace two disciplines for which I am equally passionate about. This profession has lent itself to an array of career opportunities. I have had the benefit of working in various spectrums within the judicial system, as well as having the privilege of crossing over to an educational setting where I have taught the art of court reporting for a number of years.

JCR | What would you say to others thinking about a career in court reporting or captioning?

BP | To any person who is interested in pursuing a career as a court reporter or captioner, I would tell them to leap into this career. The benefits outweigh the challenges of learning this skill. It is a profession that is highly respected by a community where professionalism and ethics are fundamental for safeguarding and preserving the spoken word.

Bertha A. Prieto can be reached at bprieto@epcounty.com.

High school, community college in new court reporting program

The El Paso Herald-Post reported on Oct. 11 that a new program developed through a collaboration between the SISD Career and Technical Education Department and the El Paso Community College, El Paso, Texas,  gives students the pathway to earn an associate degree in court reporting by the time they graduate from high school.

Read more.