PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: Leading by example

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Stanley Sakai and Isaiah Roberts at Oswego East High School

Isaiah Roberts, an official reporter working for the judicial circuit court in Illinois, was asked by his cousin, a director at Oswego East High School in the Chicago suburbs, to come and talk about his job. He invited his friend, Stanley Sakai, CRC, a captioner based in New York City, who was going to be in town, to join him for the presentation. The duo shared their similar skills and different paths with the high school students during their visit, and they garnered a lot of attention from the students, with several staying afterwards to ask questions of the two young men. The JCR asked them to tell us more about their experience.

JCR | How did the presentation go?

IR | When we got there, Stanley and I both set up our Lightspeed writers and laptops so the students could get a closer look at our machines. As I would talk with the students and answer their questions, Stanley would write everything that was being said, thereby showing the students firsthand exactly how realtime writing worked. This was one of the biggest highlights in our presentations, as the students were amazed to see every word they were speaking show up wirelessly on an iPad.

SS | Since Isaiah is a courthouse official and I am a captioner, I thought that, together, we would make a great team in that the students would have exemplars of two contrasting stenographic professionals.

JCR | What was the message you delivered to the students?

IR | We were able to explain the differences between someone who is a court reporter, such as myself, and someone is a CART captioner like Stanley. We were fortunate in this regard to be able to show some of the vastly different career options that were possible by being a stenographer. While some students liked the idea of being in a courtroom every day, some were intrigued by the fact that they could be paid to caption a sports game or that they didn’t have to have an 8-5 schedule.

SS |We made it clear to the students that an investment in a stenographic career is one of great prospects and flexibility. Whether it is the predictable stability of a 9-5 or the fast-paced hustle of the freelance life you desire, you can make this career path fit your needs and schedule.

JCR |Why was it important for you to make this visit?

SS | It is important for us to reach out and spread the word about this career because of the public’s general lack of awareness around the court reporting and captioning fields. As a captioner who works in many different capacities, I can attest that most people have no idea what I mean when I say I produce live captioning for tech conferences or provide CART for students. I frequently get confused looks by onlookers when I explain to them that practically none of what I am doing is automated when I inevitably get my favorite on-the-job question: “What speech/voice recognition software are you using? It’s so good!”

There is widespread misunderstanding regarding the value, long-term viability, and the earning potential of stenographic professions, so it’s imperative that we, especially as younger representatives in an aging field, do all that we can to educate and inspire those who will be soon choosing their career paths.

JCR |What were some of the questions/comments students had for you?

SS |The questions we got ran the gamut from typical salary ranges, to hours worked per week, to working conditions. We were surprised at how genuinely curious the students were at such a young age!

IR | A lot of the questions we received were questions such as, “How much schooling does it take?” or “How are you possibly able to write that fast?” Stanley and I both shared our own personal experiences, expressing that while the learning process is difficult, the career is well worth it.

I brought with me some promotional items and pamphlets from the current court reporting programs offered in Illinois. While many of the students seemed interested, there were multiple students who talked to us afterwards expressing that they think it might be a great career option for them.

JCR |What do you think the students gained from you visit?

SS | I think the greatest benefit the students gained from our visit other than hearing from two different professionals was witnessing the live demo. As Isaiah spoke, I transcribed him in realtime, sending the text to an iPad. We also let the students try out our machines. The “wow factor” of watching Isaiah’s words appear on the screen and the tactile aspect of touching our equipment really helped spark their interest and demonstrate our work in a concrete way.

Deaf high school teacher says school district denying his request for help at graduation

A high school teacher from East Brunswick, N.J., who is deaf says multiple requests for the district to provide a CART reporter for graduation have been denied or ignored, according to an article posted by the East Brunswick Patch on April 11.

Read more.

NCRA members find value in promoting at career fairs

DSC_0094_squareMore and more court reporters and captioners have realized the value in attending career fairs as a way to promote the profession. Most recently, Darlene Parker, RPR, a broadcast captioner, and Steve Clark, CRC, a CART captioner, presented at South Lakes High School in Reston, Va., on March 17. Because the high school is so close to NCRA headquarters, a staff member was able to join them.

“Presenting at this year’s career fair at South Lakes High School was a great opportunity to showcase our skills and professionalism of court reporters, broadcast captioners, and CART captioners,” said Clark. “Working as a team, we presented all sides of the professional – the management and training, as exemplified by Darlene Parker of NCI; the support, certification, and advocacy by our professional organization, thanks to Megan Rogers, NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist; and the skills and technical side of captioning as displayed by my live demonstration.”

Parker, whose son is a junior at the high school, noticed a call for volunteers for the fair, which was held for sophomores. “When I contacted the school,” she said, “they were thrilled to hear from me. The woman said she had been trying for years to get someone to represent the court reporting profession.” She asked Clark to help her with the presentation, especially with giving a practical demonstration. They set up a table with a couple laptops — one of which played the award-winning promotional video produced for the Take Note campaign on a loop and the other connected to Clark’s realtime feed — as well as a couple tablets wirelessly connected to the realtime feed. The table also offered fliers and posters with more information.

DSC_0101“The kids were fascinated by the realtime we displayed,” Parker noted. “One girl’s jaw dropped, and she did not close her mouth until the demo concluded.” Parker noted it was helpful to have someone to talk about the profession (possibly in front of the table to draw kids in) and someone to write live. She said it’s important for the steno machine to be visible. “Ask the kids what their names are and write them,” she said. “They love that.”

Parker had reached out to NCRA for materials, noting, “Consult NCRA’s website for helpful handouts, including fun facts.” And there’s no end to the amount of information to share with the students.

“Explain how the machine works and highlight that 5,500 jobs need to be filled in the next few years. Highlight all the different venues a court reporter/captioner can work in — as an official, a freelancer taking depositions, reporting the United States House of Representatives or United States Senate floor and committee proceedings, as a remote or onsite CART captioner for an individual in the classroom or workplace and/or at conventions, as a remote broadcast captioner, as a remote or in-stadium or in-arena captioner, and finally as a captioner in theaters. Mention that most positions offer a flexible schedule and the ability to work from home. Mention that it is a great profession for those who like words and technology,” said Parker. “And last, but not least, mention the return on investment — two to three years of schooling for an excellent salary and a rewarding career.”

Ruth Levy, RPR, a freelancer in Richmond, Va., who has recently reached out to NCRA for materials, commented on how important it is to promote the profession at these venues specifically.

“When I was a sophomore in high school, a court reporter came to my typing class and spoke about being a court reporter,” said Levy. “She asked if we liked to type. She asked if we were good at playing any instruments. She asked if we liked LA Law. I raised my hand for every question. A light bulb went off, and I knew right then and there I would love to be a court reporter.” Levy has been in contact with “a local high school that does more legal assistant and technical courses,” but she’s no stranger to promoting the profession. “While I was [attending the Academy of Court Reporting] and finishing up, I would travel with the career placement adviser and speak to high school students about being a court reporter. She would talk, and I would demonstrate,” said Levy. “It was a great feeling to pay forward what I learned in my 10th grade typing class.”

Erminia Uviedo, RMR, CRR, a freelancer in San Antonio, Texas, who has participated in more than a dozen career fairs since November, echoed Levy’s sentiments: “Just like we at one time had someone enter our classroom, sit down at a little-known type of machine, spooling out little white paper covered in lettered ink, that piqued our interest then, we must remember that feeling of when our dream began, what sparked our interests, what made us go out and seek a court reporting school. We need to remember how all it took was that one person to demonstrate machine shorthand to realize that’s exactly what we wanted to do as a career and how it has lead us to the point that we are now.”

Uviedo — along with Tonya Thompson, RPR, an official in San Antonio, and Leticia Salas, RPR, an official in Houston, who have also been active in promoting court reporting in Texas — had several tips to share.

“When attending career fairs, we have learned that the next generation is technologically savvy and quite ambitious. Many are articulate and looking for a profession that provides perpetual education and holds their attention,” said Thompson. “They are captivated with our cool keyboards and are intrigued with the ability we have to write at the speed of sound. They quickly sit behind our writers and get so excited when we show them how to write their names. They squeal with joy as their names scroll across the computer screen as their friends watch.” Thompson noted that “the excitement of a career fair is almost as exciting as attending a national convention” and that she finds that it “rejuvenates our excitement in the profession.”

Salas added, “I think it’s extremely valuable in promoting court reporting because it’s a very rewarding career. To be able to always have front row seats in people’s lives is a privilege.” She’s also noticed that career fairs are a good place to help people see the connection between court reporting and captioning: “I’ve realized that not many people have the knowledge of knowing what closed-captioning and CART are really all about and that these two avenues are roads of the court reporting profession.”

“I have learned that nine times out of 10, your audience — teachers, counselors, parents, or high school students — will be always be amazed with a realtime demonstration. Out of all the careers or schools spotlighted at career fairs, court reporting is always one of the most popular. The machine does most of the attracting on its own,” said Uviedo.

Based on her experience, she has several practical tips for others who are interested in putting on a career fair: “Have a nice Trifold display board and plenty of handouts. Make sure there are websites, Facebook pages, or Twitter profiles for them to easily be able to search for online. The ideal amount for a successful fair is four court reporters: two to reel the audience in, and two to demonstrate realtime on their machines.” Parker and Clark chose to keep the steno machine in sight but behind the table to protect it, but Uviedo recommends having the machine front and center. “Always let the audience sit at the machine and be very hands-on. Always let the students take selfies of themselves on the machine. They will do the advertising for us, easily reaching hundreds of others who will hopefully be interested in what kind of machine did they just see a picture of, engaging them to comment on what it is, where to find out about court reporting, etc.” Uviedo has also combined forces with San Antonio College’s court reporting program. “Always have sign-in sheets. And when there is an open house coming up, mass text everyone on the sign-in sheets to invite them to the open house,” she said, so students can easily take the next step.

NCRA members who are interested in presenting at career fairs have a variety of resources available from the Association. The Resource Center at crTakeNote.com has fliers, posters, a PowerPoint presentation, and a promotional video (both generic and customizable for a specific program, etc.). Members may also find value in the resources at NCRA.org/Awareness. These materials are focused on Court Reporting & Captioning Week, but members can adapt them for other promotional purposes or to find ideas for how to showcase court reporting and captioning. Members who do participate in career fairs or any other promotional activities are encouraged to contact Annemarie Roketenetz, NCRA Communications Manager, at aroketenetz@ncra.org for possible inclusion in the JCR. Keep in mind that any photos will likely need to hide any identifying features of minors, especially faces.

Students sit in on court cases

The Alice Echo News Journal posted a story on Jan. 5 about a local high school business law class that sat in on a day of cases at the Jim Wells County Courthouse in Alice, Texas. The students witnessed cases ranging from assault to burglary and later had the opportunity to talk with attorneys, investigators, the court reporter, and the judge.

Read more.