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.

Read more.

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.

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VCRA announces 2020 scholarship open to all court reporting students

The Virginia Court Reporters Association (VCRA) is seeking applications from court reporting students for its second Carolyn M. O’Connor Education Fund Scholarship in the amount of $1,000. Applicants are not required to be residents of Virginia; however, they must have passed at least one of their accredited brick and mortar or online court reporting program’s tests of a minimum of 160 words per minute.

Applicants are also required to submit an essay of at least 1,000 words that addresses the question “How do you see your court reporting career enhancing your life?” Deadline for applying for the scholarship is Jan. 10, 2020. The winner will be notified by Feb. 15, 2020, and be invited as a guest to VCRA’s 2020 Convention being held March 20-22, in Lynchburg, Va., where they will be recognized and receive their award, along with a one-year membership to VCRA.

The scholarship is supported by the Carolyn M. O’Connor Education Fund, which celebrates the life of Carolyn Morris O’Connor and recognizes the many contributions she made to the profession.

For more information, contact VCRA at VCRAexecutivedirector@gmail.com or download an application here, which includes the full list of requirements to apply.

Court reporters offering classes at Champaign library in effort to combat shortage

The News-Gazette posted an article on Sept. 13 about First Steps, a free introductory course into writing on a steno machine being offered by the state to help combat the shortage of court reporters in Illinois. 

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