Court reporting a good fit for farming family

My name is Andrea Franje. I am 31 years old, and I have been married to my husband, Eric, for eight years. We have three beautiful little girls: Blakely, 7; Charlie, 6; and Gracie, 4. We live in New Sharon, Iowa, which is also where we grew up. We love raising our girls in a small-town atmosphere. Eric is a full-time farmer, so we are right in the middle of harvest. He works on his family farm, and we also have a small cattle operation of our own.

UTS | What got you interested in the program and what brought you to Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC)?          

AF | I styled hair for 12 years, and I loved it. With my husband being a farmer, it is not uncommon for him to be out late at night. Once my oldest daughter got into preschool, we realized very fast that my late-night schedule was not going to work. I was going to need to find another job.

My court reporter friend, Brook Blackwell, RPR, CRR, had been posting on Facebook about court reporting jobs. I was able to go sit in on some hearings with Brook one Thursday afternoon, and I was intrigued with her job. I wanted to learn more about it. That following Saturday they were having an information meeting at DMACC. After that, I knew it was something I needed to pray about. I felt very compelled to apply. Thankfully, I was accepted.

UTS | What has been the most challenging part of getting through school, and what are you doing to overcome it?

AF | I think the most challenging part of school so far has been balancing my life. I never want anything to come before my family. I do not want any of them to feel like I am giving more of myself to my schooling than I am to them. This program really does require a lot of your attention, though. I always try to do everything with 100 percent effort. 

I had to resign from some extracurricular boards. I knew I was going to have to take some things off my plate if this program was going to be doable for me. I try very hard to be focused on whatever I am doing at the moment. If I am in wife mode, I want to be giving that my all. If I am in mom mode or school mode or church mode or friend mode, I want to be sure I am giving it my all. I have found myself figuring out a new definition for living in the present. 

UTS | What has been the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

AF | This question has been the hardest to answer because I have received so much great advice. I would say that there are a couple of things that stick out to me.

One: If this was easy, everyone would do it. Court reporting is such a small community of people that you inevitably feel like family even if you don’t know them well. You are able to connect with them in a way that you cannot connect with anyone else. I think that is such a cool thing. It is like the secret language you used to have with your friends when you were little, except now we are all adults. 

Two: You will fail in this program more times than you will succeed. This program is unlike any other program. Once you have passed a test, it is almost like you are back at square one. You don’t get to relish in the moment of passing very long before you are hit with a higher speed you need to tackle. I try to keep this in the back of my mind when I do not pass a test.  It can be discouraging at times to feel like you are hitting a wall constantly, but that moment when you do pass, it is so exhilarating!

UTS | What do you like to spend your free time doing?

AF | We love doing anything as a family. We installed two ponds in our pasture a few years ago, and we love to go out there with the girls to fish. We stocked it up really well, so they cast out and catch a fish right away. We also love to sing. My husband and I are on the worship team at my church, so our girls see us musically involved there all the time. My husband will sit down at the piano at night, and we all just sing whatever song he decides to play. Those are the moments that I know I will miss when my girls are all grown up.

UTS | Have any plans for when you finish school? What is your dream job?

AF | I would love to become an official reporter. With my family, I love the hours, benefits, and pay. I would love to work in District 8 when I graduate. It would be wonderful to be working in the district in which I live. I have been lucky enough to get to know some of the reporters in this district, and they are all wonderful. They have reached out and helped me through so much already. I am looking forward to the day that I can call them my colleagues.

 Angela Franje is a student at Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa.

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.

Student creates steno fashion

Diana Ruiz

These days you can buy steno machines in just about any color: not just white and black but green, red, pink, and even purple and gold. But there is one thing that hasn’t really changed about steno machines; no matter what the color of the machine, the keys remain gray or black.

Diana Ruiz, a student at Downey Adult School in Downey, Calif., had an idea to make her machine look unique and start a business at the same time.

“I went online in search of cute keypads,” Ruiz said. “No luck! I even went to my local steno guy and sure enough only black and grey keypads. So, I started school and every time I looked at my keys, I knew that I could make them myself, so I did. With the help of my husband, we created a way to be able to make them quickly and efficiently. And thanks to my mom and the professional court reporters who tried them out before I put them out, came KLOR Steno Key Design.”

Ruiz originally started court reporting school in 2004, but after a couple of years her life took a different turn. She got married and became a stay-at-home mom. At home with her two boys Sebastian and Zach, ages 10 and 7 respectively, she started getting into crafts such as photography, sewing, and knitting. Now back in school after 16 years, she is finding a way to combine her two passions.

“I got KLOR started by making a few sets [of keypads] for myself and professional court reporters to try out. Once I got feedback from them,” Ruiz said, “I decided to open an Etsy shop to sell them. I did very little advertising when I opened my Etsy shop. Social media was what passed along the word that they were available, and it took off from there.”

Ruiz doesn’t just sell bright colors and polka dots. She has faux leather, animal prints, holiday themes, and even Breast Cancer and Autism awareness keypads. If none of those designs appeals to her customers, she can create a custom design. Some people just want a little flair on their keyboards, so she also sells a la carte vowel keypads for a more subtle look. And her business is still expanding.

“One thing I noticed when I came back to school was that people were trying to create their own practice boards,” Ruiz said, “so I added a ‘tool’ to the Etsy shop. It is made of thick foam keys to be placed wherever they want such as a mini binder or a clipboard. I also just came out with speed lapel pins for students, in speeds going from Theory to 225 wpm. As a student, I wanted a reminder for myself to see how far I have come.”

Attending school online is something that is important to Ruiz, as she wants to be home to support her family. She says she feels a sense of achievement each time she passes another speed level. Starting her business with her husband is a way she can stay focused on her family and share her love of court reporting at the same time.

“My feedback has been amazingly positive,” said Ruiz. “I am always so happy to hear what people have to say. I’m just super happy that I am able to provide a little spark to students and court reporters when it comes to their keys, and if that means flowers or Christmas lights on their keypads well then that’s what I will provide.”

Diana Ruiz is a student at Downy Adult School in Downey, Calif. You can view her KLOR Steno Key Design collection at http://www.klorstenokeydesign.etsy.com

NCRF Student Intern Scholarship opens Oct. 1

The National Court Reporters Foundation Student Intern Scholarship opens Oct. 1. Two $1000 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.

Written Knowledge Tests move online

NCRA is excited to announce candidates will soon be able to take our Written Knowledge Tests from the comfort of the location you choose. Starting with our October 2020 Written Knowledge Tests, all WKTs will be given online through Pearson Vue four times a year (January, April, July, October). That’s right! It’s now possible to take your Written Knowledge Test online through Pearson Vue. The next registration period is Dec. 1-31 for the Jan. 7-21, 2021, testing period.

Member feedback requesting online options and the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions for in-person opportunities for testing solidified NCRA’s Certification and Testing team’s plans to expedite changes to the administration of our Written Knowledge Tests.

Candidates will continue to register with NCRA for their test and receive a con­firmation email within three business days of registering that will include scheduling instructions for the test.

Candidates will schedule their test through www.pearsonvue.com/ncra and log on at their scheduled date and time within our testing window to take their test. Candidates will take their multiple-choice exam online while monitored by Pearson Vue proctors.

“COVID-19 has us expediting several initiatives we had planned for 2021. By switching to online testing, we will be able to offer all WKTs giving candidates more opportunities to test throughout the year,” said Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification. “The online testing instructions are a little different than the Skills Test; therefore, candidates are encouraged to read the instructions thoroughly,” she added.

“I believe NCRA’s decision to move the RDR, RPR, CLVS, and CRC tests fully online will result in more people earning those certifications,” said Brook Nunn, RPR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Boise, Idaho.

“Simply put, it’s just more convenient. If we can take the Skills Tests online, the Written Tests should be even more straightforward. This is a win for everyone!” she added.

Technology requirements and full directions for the new online testing are available at NCRA.org/wkt. NCRA will continue to send all official results within four weeks of the close of our testing window via the email address on file with NCRA.

NCRF announces 2020 New Professional Reporter Grant recipients

Two awardees named for the first time in grant’s 16-year history

By Jill Parker Landsman

The National Court Reporters Foundation announced two recipients for the 2020 New Professional Reporter Grant.

“Since our former Frank Sarli and Robert H. Clark scholarships ended in 2019, we decided to award a first- and second-place recipient for this grant this year,” said NCRF Chair Cathy Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS, an official court reporter from Collierville, Tenn. “Each winner was selected after displaying remarkable focus on academics as well as dedication to the court reporting industries. Their letters of recommendation played a strong role in their selections.”

First-place winner, Erin Johnson of Carthage, Ill., was awarded $2,000. She is grateful about the day in high school when she had her epiphany about becoming a court reporter.

“My interest in court reporting came when I was fortunate enough to job shadow another court reporter while I was in high school,” Johnson said. “From that day forward, I knew this was the career for me. I entered court reporting for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons was my love for the English language as well as my desire to work in the judicial system. One reason that I am passionate about court reporting is that I can contribute to the judicial system firsthand by taking down an accurate, verbatim record,” she added.

“I have always been excited about my career, and I know how important it is for the judicial system to have qualified stenographic reporters,” Johnson said. “We are responsible for the recordkeeping of very serious matters. Additionally, I enjoy learning about the law and how it applies to each case. Court reporting offers such a variety of subject matter that it makes the job so interesting. The friendships I have developed with the judges, attorneys, and staff are outstanding. I have been so blessed with the people that I have met and the support that I have had.  I can’t wait to see what the career of court reporting holds for me.”

For the first time since 2005, NCRF selected a second winner, Laura Tello of Houston, Texas, who was awarded $1,000.

Tello passed her court reporting state test in Dallas, Texas, on June 22, 2019. Her mother died just three days before, but she mustered up tenacity and focus to complete her credentials. Due to adverse audio during testing, only 13 out of 50 examinees passed; she was one.

Tello’s training had starts and stops. “I can’t tell you the amount of times I just wanted to throw that machine out of my moving car every time I left school without passing Alvin Community College’s [Alvin, Texas] hard test,” she said. “That machine was like a third child, always stuck to me wherever I went. During my studies, things in my life got harder to deal with, be it money, ailing parents, the kids, and other stuff that interfered with taking classes. So my court reporter training was an off-and-on-again relationship for the rest of the years that followed,” Tello added. 

“I think, if anything, my court reporter education shows that, although I may not be a spring chicken anymore, I fought long and hard for this career to define me as a person interested in bettering myself. I appreciate feeling needed in this profession, and I enjoy it tremendously. The scholarship means that I have been validated for my long hard fight to get to where I am at today, and for that I am truly grateful! Thank you for this scholarship. I love my job! Love what you do and do what you love is a quote I read from a veteran court reporter whom I shadowed. She is truly an inspiration to me. A writer like that is what I continue to aspire to become one day,” Tello said.

For information about this NCRF New Professional Reporter Grant, click here.

Jill Parker Landsman, is manager of the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at jlandsman@ncra.org.

It’s a wrap for students at Connect

Tygerr Recchia

This year, NCRA’s Virtual Connect event attracted the highest number of students we’ve seen in years: 124! Without the cost of travel, hotel, and food, the conference was more affordable than ever. The unique virtual format gave students the chance to not only attend every educational session but to pop into several different networking meet-ups as well. “I was exposed to the most wonderful group of ladies and gentlemen I have had the privilege to Zoom with,” said Tygerr Recchia, of Green River College in Auburn, Wash.

Up-to-Speed asked the student attendees to give us feedback on their Virtual Connect experience.

UTS | What were some of your favorite sessions?

Savannah Jordan

Motivation, Beating Obstacles, Achieving Goals, and Growth Mindset presented by Matthew Moss, RPR. “Matt Moss’ way of explaining our brain workings was my most favorite thing. I loved the science behind it and all of the resources he added.” – Savannah Jordan, Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting

Controlling Your Subconscious presented by Teresa Russ, CRI. “I really enjoyed the session with Teresa Russ on controlling your subconscious. I am a firm believer of speaking great things over your life. I also enjoy Teresa’s message on not giving up despite the struggle.” –  Shaunise Day, Oakland, Calif., Simply Steno

Build a Million Dollar Court Reporting Business presented by Cassandra Caldarella. “I absolutely loved Cassandra’s energy and passion for court reporting. Her presentation was fabulous and insightful. It was informative, and it inspired me so much to help me persevere on those days when testing seems insurmountable! She showed me anything is possible, and the sky is the limit! I loved it!” – Tygerr Recchia

Motivation, Beating Obstacles, Achieving Goals, and Growth Mindset presented by Matthew Moss, RPR and Success as an Online Student presented by Jensen Wohlgemuth, RPR and Kelly Moranz, CRI. “Having been in school for three years, sometimes I feel like I’ve heard all the tips for being a student, but these two offered good strategies that I can employ in my next speed and beyond.” –  Rachel Helm, Green River College in Auburn, Wash.

UTS | What did you think of the social events?

“The captioning meetup was the best event of my life! They were very honest about the state of the business and how they needed captioners, so it was very encouraging for students knowing they are wanted! They were fun and insightful. They answered all the students’ questions, and all really love what they do. Every single one of them said this was the best decision they ever made, and I have no doubts, never have had, but this just cemented it in, that I too have made the best decision I ever made no matter how long it takes to get there!” – Tygerr Recchia

“It was honestly a little easier to socialize in the virtual events than it was last year in Denver, Colo. As a student, I was overwhelmed, and often the presenters had too many people to really keep up with in real life. The virtual social events were fantastic.” – Rachel Helm

UTS | What was the best thing about the conference?

“Getting to meet everyone who want nothing but the best for you. Everyone was willing to share contact info, go into depth about more questions, and being overall welcoming.” – Savannah Jordan

“Strategies on getting through school and knowing I’m not alone in sometimes feeling frustrated or not fast enough or like it’s taking me forever to get through school. Also I really, really appreciated being able to watch the videos after the original dates, because I work, I’m a parent, and I am in school, so I’m busy and I would have had to not get something done if I had attended all weekend.” – Anonymous

“Actually, seeing that people want you to succeed in this profession and there is indeed a need for reporters, etc.” – Mayone Brown, Court Reporting and Captioning at Home

“The friendliness. Several court reporters reached out to me to say hello.” – Lisa Tunzi, College of Court Reporting, Valparaiso, Ind.