NCRF announces 2019 scholarship and grant recipients

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) has announced the winners of the 2019 Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship, the Robert H. Clark Scholarship, and the New Professional Reporter Grant.

Nicole Duzich, from Glendora, Calif., a student at Tri Community Adult Education in Covina, Calif., was named recipient of the 2019 Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship. The Foundation also announced that Amanda Johnson, from Rathdrum, Idaho, a student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., is the recipient the Robert H. Clark Scholarship, while Meredith Seymour, from Madison, Wis., an official court reporter for Waukesha County Courthouse, District 3, was named recipient of the 2019 New Professional Reporter Grant. The recipients were selected by random drawing using a true random statistical tool.

Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

Nicole Duzich

“This scholarship means so much to me. After finishing my job of six years as a bungee jumping instructor, this scholarship will really be an immense support in helping me finish up school as well as pursue my RPR simultaneously,” said Duzich. “I am really dedicating all I have to practicing and doing what I need to do to get myself graduated and certified. I hope I can not only make my family and friends proud, but myself as well,”

Duzich said she was introduced to a stenograph machine in high school when she saw a captioner providing CART for a student in her class. She said that experience stayed in the back of her mind through college and even after college until a friend of hers began court reporting school. Although her friend didn’t finish, Duzich said she became very interested.

“I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology, got my bartending certification, and have thrown thousands of people off of a bridge, but this career path would prove to get my brain working in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. My obsession with puzzles definitely helped with learning theory and my competitive spirit helps me with testing. Although failing isn’t particularly my favorite thing to do, I’ve learned to appreciate the pure difficulty of this program and cannot wait to one day look back and see what I have accomplished,” she said. 

Duzich said that her future plans include beginning her professional career taking depositions and then possibly moving into CART captioning. “I live an active lifestyle and love to do many things spontaneously so I think the freelancing will accommodate my schedule and at the same time help me get my feet wet in the profession at my own pace. I am extremely eager and excited to start working in the field that I have dedicated these years of schooling towards,” she added.

The Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship is a $2,000 award, given annually to a high-achieving court reporting student. This scholarship honors the late Frank Sarli, a court reporter who was committed to supporting students through years of service on NCRA’s committees and boards that guide the education of court reporting students. Recipients are nominated by their schools and must meet specific criteria, including:

  • having a GPA of at least 3.5
  • passing at least one of the court reporting program’s Q&A tests at a minimum of 200 wpm
  • possessing all the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including professional attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation

Robert H. Clark Scholarship

Amanda Johnson

“This scholarship is such a blessing to me and my family. Receiving this scholarship is going to help ease some of the financial burdens on my family and help me get started in my court reporting career,” said Johnson. “Money has always been tight, and all I want to do is be the best provider for my family. Receiving this scholarship has really taken quite a bit of stress off my shoulders and will help me continue going forward in my career,” she added. 

Johnson said that the legal system has always been a part of her life given that her father was a police officer for 31 years. “We had the most amazing support system growing up and it always felt like everyone was part of a big family. I wanted to walk in my father’s footsteps but didn’t feel being an officer was a good fit for me,” Johnson said.

“My grandma was the one who actually mentioned court reporting to me so when I truly started looking into this career, I knew this was what I wanted to do. It has been quite the ride, but I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Even when I felt defeated, there was always someone there cheering me on and helping me fight through any and all struggles; I never felt like I was alone. And when it was time for me to start my externship, the amount of joy I felt was unbelievable. Nothing has truly compared to the feeling I felt when going to my first deposition. I still have quite a ways to go before I am officially a court reporter, but I am confident that I will do amazing in this career,” Johnson added. 

Johnson said she plans to take the Washington State exam as soon as she can and will pursue freelance work first. “The reporter I have been shadowing has been so amazing and so supportive. I will most likely be working for her as soon as I receive my license. It’s been a slow process for me due to working a full-time job throughout my schooling, but I am right at the end of it all and will be able to officially say that I am a court reporter real soon.” 

According to her instructor, Julie Morris, director of education at Brown College of Court Reporting, Johnson is a dedicated student that has pressed on despite numerous challenges. “She has managed to keep a solid 3.76 GPA and to soldier on through the plateaus that occur in court reporting school,” Morris said. “As a resident of northern Idaho, her goals are to practice in both Idaho and Washington. She is currently in her externship and is anticipating graduation in the near future. I couldn’t be happier to have nominated Amanda and to see her win with wonderful scholarship!

The $2,000 Robert H. Clark Scholarship is named for the late Robert H. “Bob” Clark, a court reporter from Los Angeles, Calif., who was dedicated to preserving the history of the profession. Johnson is the fifth recipient of this scholarship.

In 2015, Clark’s family made a generous donation to NCRF to honor him, and NCRF created the Robert H. Clark Scholarship. Students are nominated by instructors or other officials at their schools. To be eligible, nominees must be NCRA members, be enrolled in a court reporting program, must have passed at least one of their program’s Q&A tests at 200 words per minute, and must possess a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, among other criteria.

The New Professionals Grant

Meredith Seymour

Seymour said that early on as a student at Lakeshore Technical College, she became very grateful for the generosity and support of NCRF. While working two jobs and attending classes, she shared that there were days when the coursework and practicing became overwhelming. But, she added, meeting fellow NCRA members and receiving support from them at conventions always helped her keep her chin up, especially their encouragement that the time and resources she was investing to pursue a career in court reporting would one day turn into a wonderful profession.

“Receiving this scholarship is a privilege that I am very thankful for. Upon graduating this past December and immediately getting hired as a district reporter for the State of Wisconsin Circuit Court System, I incurred many expenses,” Seymour said. “The grant from NCRA will be put to good use in paying off the debt from purchasing a steno machine, computer, software, and residual student loans.”

Seymour said that court reporting became a second career for her after first working as an American Sign Language interpreter for about four years, and as a captionist using a method called C-Print for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at a regional technical college. After struggling to find gainful employment as an interpreter, she said a former colleague told her about stenography. 

“We both enrolled in the court reporting program at Lakeshore Technical College in the fall of 2015. I chose to pursue a career in court reporting, because the job market in this profession had very attractive statistics, and the desired skillset would also allow me to work as a CART captioner, a service that is in demand more than ever before,” she said.

Perseverance, devotion to coursework, and practice are critical fundamentals to students who are finishing up school and are about to enter the court reporting profession, Seymour advised.

“You’re not done progressing the minute you walk across that stage on graduation day. There’s so much learning and development that comes from job experience. Just like any other career, there will be good days and there will be bad days. As each week passes by, you will gain more skill and confidence. Stay humble, keep a positive attitude, and continue to create new goals for yourself. This profession is alive and well, and the rewards of this profession are fruitful.  The best part is you’re about to become part of a community of reporters and captionists who are exceptionally supportive of each other. So get ready for some fun, some challenges, and a whole lot of growth along the way,” she adds.

“Meredith distinguished herself immediately as a highly motivated individual that brings an infectious, positive attitude to the job, while maintaining a strong personal demeanor,” said Michael G. Neimon, the district court administrator who nominated Seymour. Neimon noted in his letter of recommendation that Seymour began working as an official court reporter upon graduation from school and was brought on to fill a position vacated due to medical leave.

“Meredith did not have the benefit of a slow mentoring process that eased her into a system that it no very tolerant of people who are unable to perform what is expected of them,” Neimon said. “The court system can be an environment that is cold and intimidating. Meredith has weathered that with a combination of a high level of skill, a strong work ethic, a team approach, and professionalism.”

NCRF awards the annual New Professional Reporter Grant to a reporter who is in his or her first year of work, has graduated within a year from an NCRA-approved court reporting program, and meets specific criteria, including a grade point average of 3.5 or above, a letter of recommendation, and actively working in any of the career paths of judicial (official/freelance), CART, or captioning. The grant is in the amount of $2,000.

NCRF scholarships are funded by generous donations. To learn more about NCRF’s scholarships and grants, visit NCRA.org/NCRF.

A student asks, “Why am I here?”

Stephanie Famber

By Stephanie Famber

Last Spring, Stephanie Famber attended Georgia United, a seminar sponsored by the Georgia Court Reporters Association in Atlanta, Ga. “In Georgia,” Famber says, “as in several other states, we can now face the woes of court reporting together as a stronger, larger family. I hope we can set a good example and encourage others to follow.”

Why am I here? Those are the first words written in my notes from the Georgia United, 2019 Spring Seminar in Atlanta, Ga., hosted by the Georgia Court Reporters Association (GCRA) Mind you, those words were written roughly 30 minutes into a 12-hour seminar. No, it’s not what you think. I didn’t get bored of the speaker, start doodling and regret my decision to give up what could turn out to be a very long Saturday. “Why am I here?” is a far more profound question. We’ll get there in a minute.

My name is Stephanie. I am excited to say I am a court reporting student. I currently attend Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., as a full-time student with a full-time job. This is only my third month as a court reporting student. I know I am as green as they come. I’m still shopping for my student writer and haven’t even started theory yet. I have a lot to learn, but I am all in and full speed ahead. Why else would I have given up a precious weekend for some seminar? Well, I have heard several seasoned reporters speak. One of the recurring themes I have heard is, “Join your association; be active.” Man, am I glad I did!

After a fantastic icebreaker about assumptions, the first GCRA speaker cut right to the chase and dove into their main topic, communication. The group dialogue began with how we can alter our behavior and speech to potentially change negative assumptions about ourselves or others. When the speaker opened the floor for topics relevant to a court reporter’s life, that’s when things got juicy. We went through the range of FAQs and how to best communicate an answer to them. “Aren’t you just typing really fast?” “When will you graduate?” “Aren’t you worried AI will take over your job?” “What do you do anyway?” And there it was, the first tough question as a new student that I didn’t know how to answer. I know what we do, but how do I explain that to someone outside of our world? Why ARE we here?

Now let’s back up to one of the other questions, “Aren’t you worried AI will take over your job?” The topic of electronic recordings in the courtroom was brought up several times by concerned court reporters and addressed by multiple speakers from a different perspective. As a brand-new student at the beginning of my journey to become a court reporter, I know very little in general, and even less about the adversity that is faced daily in the working profession. It was unsettling, albeit brief, to hear so many concerns in such a short amount of time.

Christine Phipps, the Vice President of NCRA, was a very comforting speaker. As both a seasoned court reporter and court reporting firm owner, Christine was able to speak with contagious confidence backed by years of experience. Christine is based in Florida, where she is all too familiar with the struggles brought by electronic recording encroaching on court reporters. She has seen big electronic recording companies swoop in and convince the right people to switch to electronic recording. She spoke of the period and struggles after the switch to or testing of electronic recording. As Christine chronicled some of her experiences, I found myself relaxing back into my chair, reassured by the logic and reason displayed by the lawyers and attorneys she mentioned as they came to realize the inferiority of an uncertified transcript produced from an electronic recording. A few moments later, I was sitting at attention again, as she preached passionately about our value as court reporters. Christine went as far as to say some Florida lawyers began to cancel depositions on the spot once they realized an electronic recorder had been sent in lieu of a court reporter. You, as a court reporter, are valuable. You may be underappreciated or taken for granted at times, but people definitely notice when you are gone.

Before attending the seminar, I had already heard or read stories of bias regarding which type of court reporter is better. It saddens me to realize this bias is so readily impressed upon those entering the world of court reporting. In my dealings at the seminar, it was apparent from the speech of some and the side comments of others that this bias is a real and present danger to the court reporting community. And yet, there is hope for a more united future. I spoke with several individuals who were considering changing their method of reporting. Some voice writers were ready to take on a new challenge, while other steno writers were tired of using their hands constantly. I was grateful to find a plentiful number of reporters to whom the style of takedown did not matter. If a voice writer and a steno writer can produce the exact same quality of transcript, does the method of takedown even matter? Can one method even logically be superior if the end result is exactly the same? I do not believe so.

Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The birth of GCRA has dissolved our division and united our previously separated court reporting associations. In Georgia, as in several other states, we can now face the woes of court reporting together as a stronger, larger family. I hope we can set a good example and encourage others to follow. I would like to thank GCRA for putting together such a wonderful inaugural seminar. This was an invaluable learning experience, and the seminar as a whole felt reassuring. I am optimistic about the future of court reporting. I can’t wait to join such a wonderful profession.

Stephanie Famber is a student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga.

How an “Evil Zombie Vampire Court Reporter from Hell” figures prominently in NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Maxyne Bursky

By Maxyne Bursky

NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is a great impetus for veteran reporters to head into reporting schools and give both students and newbies a taste of what successful and amazing careers lie ahead of them. As experienced professionals, we have the privilege and advantage (and obligation, I would offer) of being able not only to show them a living, breathing sample of what’s possible, but also to give them a leg up on the mistakes, errors, or omissions (yes, omissions) we have made and bring this whole industry into perspective for a new generation of verbatim reporters. We are the face of the past and present, and they are our future.

On Feb. 9, I, along with my husband, Richard, a reporter of nearly 45 years, was honored to present a film I wrote and produced called “Evil Zombie Vampire Court Reporter from Hell” to students at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga. The film is a 43-minute spoof of a deposition in which the star commits 47 professional infractions, any one of which could have gotten her dismissed from her job and many of which could have potentially ended her career.

Just to give you a little taste, the court reporter is 15 minutes late to the deposition, and she offers no apology or excuse. In fact, within the first five minutes, her actions clearly point to the fact that the attorneys in the film are in for a very, very long day.

Every time over the past five years that I have presented this film — as well as its sequel, “Evil Zombie Vampire Lawyer from Hell” — I watch it from beginning to end along with the attendees. I never tire of hearing students and veteran reporters alike gasp and giggle at the evil reporter’s bad behavior. It heartens me to know that the principles of preparedness, professionalism, and propriety, not to mention common sense, are ingrained in the majority of court reporters.

Even so, there are those who have come up to me at the conclusion of my lecture at a reporting school or even at a state convention and complained that the film is misguided in that, for example, not being prepared with exhibit stickers, extension cords, and the like is not so bad, or showing up 15 minutes before the start of a proceeding is acceptable. I typically arrive 45 minutes to an hour early, and when a student is shadowing me, I require them to meet me 60 minutes before the scheduled time so that we can chat about what is going to transpire once we are on the record.  My usual response to these naysayers is, “Well, you keep doing that, and next time those clients will call me, not you.”

Each person who watches the film receives a list of those 47 sins that evil reporter has committed, and I encourage everyone to hold off looking at the list and write on a separate piece of paper the number of bad behaviors they observed and then compare that list to the distributed material. I am so pleased to say, when we got to the lecture portion of the session at Brown College, the students were able to volunteer more than half of the unprofessional antics demonstrated in the film.

Brown College requires my book Talk to the Hands, a practical guide for the newbie, to be used by students in their career development class, which is one of the courses offered just prior to graduation. At each film presentation, I supply a workbook for that book, along with exemplars of cover, appearance, and certificate pages, among others, for students to use as a template when first entering into the court reporting workforce.

As a proud participant in NCRA’s online mentoring program, before I get off the phone with a dedicated court reporting student who’s stuck at 150 wpm or who has just emerged from theory and is feeling overwhelmed, I make sure that they know I went through the same angst, managed to get through it, and love (nearly) every minute of my workday.  And the paychecks aren’t bad either!

Because our profession has expanded so rapidly through technology, one of my mantras at every “evil” film presentation, on every mentoring phone call, at every meet and greet for new students, is realtime, realtime, realtime. That skill is what separates the proverbial men from the boys and expands our opportunities for personal and professional growth. In fact, the “evil reporter” is vehement in refusing to provide realtime to the movie’s attorneys.  In my early days of doing realtime, I felt as if I were sitting in the conference room in my dirty pajamas, and everyone present could plainly see how incompetent I was because of a misstroke here and there. I’m not afraid to share this and other similar observations with newbies, to let them know that with time and experience and a commitment to attaining higher speed through practice even after graduation, these insecurities will fade and be replaced with a satisfaction and acknowledgement of one’s own competence that will give rise to that new generation of professional court reporters.

Maxyne Bursky, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter from McDonough, Ga. She can be reached at bullymax1@aol.com.

What did you do to make a difference for Court Reporting & Captioning Week?

By Debbie Kriegshauser

I must share with you all that I had a “peach of a time” visiting the Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., during Court Reporting & Captioning Week. I was beyond impressed with the school. The classroom layouts, the labs, the faculty, and the administration were just amazing – not to mention the best students in the United States. There are 41 daytime students, 32 evening students, and 125 online students. That is phenomenal! We certainly can’t take a chance of losing this program.

We all remember those days of the dreaded “guest speaker” when we were in school, but I must say we had a fantastic time. Several of the students who chose to sit in the back of the room were dancing in the aisles and happy-go-lucky when they left. Oh, yes, we had attendance prizes, Valentine’s Day candy bags, and some good ole fun and enjoyment. They love those wonderful reference books the NCRA Store has for sale, plus I rewarded the student I mentor there with a convention registration for being the main reason I went to Brown College of Court Reporting in the first place. Thank you, Kimesha Smith Stallworth, for arranging this opportunity!

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my life and work experience with the students. I’m currently a federal official in St. Louis, Mo., and have been for 15 years. But I had done 25 years of freelance work before that, not to mention two years of CART reporting for a deaf student studying Agricultural Science, some dabbling in the captioning side of life, and providing media coverage for a Senior PGA Tournament on top of the freelance work. Needless to say, I had a lot to share with the students. I could have consumed the entire day. I also went into my professional memberships and covered an array of committees I have served on to show the students that involvement in your professional organizations is priceless!

We all have some experiences we can share with students as well as prospective students across the country. I challenge each and every one of you to share a bit of your court reporting or captioning experience with our schools. You can make a difference. You have to “just do it!” Did I mention the school YouTubed the entire evening presentation while it streamed it to the online students?

And the best part of this college visit: I got invited back! I also received the nicest “thank you” card. Thank you, Brown College of Court Reporting, especially Mark Green, Jr., director of career services, and Marita Carey, director of administration!

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, is an official court reporter at the federal level from St. Louis, Mo.








Court reporting student considers blindness a characteristic, not limitation

Nearly two years ago, Kolby Garrison from Greensboro, N.C., enrolled as an online student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga. Like other court reporting students around the country, Garrison practices daily, attends her classes, and says that speed building is one of the most challenging aspects of learning the court reporting profession. Garrison, who is blind, attributes much of her success so far in reaching her educational goals to Brown College and looks forward to graduation when she can also provide captioning and CART services.  The JCR Weekly recently interviewed Garrison about what drew her to the field of court reporting and more.

 

JCR Weekly: What drew you to the court reporting profession?

Garrison: I was drawn to the court reporting profession by my mother encouraging me to look at court reporting as a career option. I debated between court reporting and law school. I chose court reporting over law school based on the position held by the court reporter within the legal field and the skills that are required to be a stenographer.

JCR Weekly: What are your goals for the future when you graduate?

Garrison: My goals for the future include working in the court reporting, captioning, and Communication Access Realtime Translation provision fields.

JCR Weekly: Can you share how you access and participate in online classes?

Garrison: I use assistive technology to access information. I have software on my computer that speaks the text on the screen, and a device that displays the text on the screen in Braille. The Braille display enables me to read back and edit my writing. I participate in online classes on an equal level with my fellow classmates. Materials are provided in the formats that are accessible to me, and my instructors verbally describe anything that they present during class.

JCR Weekly: How supportive has Brown College of Court Reporting been in helping you to achieve you goals?

Garrison: I cannot say enough about the support that I receive from Brown College of Court Reporting. I contacted numerous court reporting schools with online programs, and Brown College of Court Reporting was the only school to express enthusiasm about accommodating my needs as a student who is blind.

JCR Weekly: What has been the most challenging part of learning the profession for you?

Garrison: For me, the most challenging aspect of learning the court reporting profession is building speed.

JCR Weekly: Some will consider you to be a true role model given what you have overcome to pursue this profession. What would be your response to that?

Garrison: I view my blindness as a characteristic. My not being able to see does not limit me if I can help it. Blindness presents challenges and difficulties at times, but where there is a will, there is a way. Finding the way might require alternative approaches, but the way will be found if you have the right tools and the right attitude. I have the will, and I will find the way!