NCRA announces 2019 CASE Student Scholarships

NCRA has announced the winners of the 2019 CASE (Council on Approved Student Education) Student Scholarships. The winners were chosen based on their winning entries in an essay writing contest. The essay question was “Describe the importance of earning your Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification as a new professional.”

Each year, CASE awards five scholarships to students who attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program. To be eligible to apply, students must also hold a student membership in NCRA, have attained an exemplary academic record, and passed one skills test writing at between 140 and 180 words per minute. Students are also required to submit a speed verification form, three recommendation forms, a copy of their most recent transcript, and an essay in response to a topic chosen by members of CASE.

Philip A. Dawson

Philip A. Dawson, a student at the Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pa., secured the top spot by winning the $1,500 scholarship. “I am honored to be a recipient of the CASE Student Scholarship. My training as a court reporter has been a life changing experience. The teachers and reporters I have met along the way have been truly great people that earnestly want me to succeed and I am grateful for their support,” he said. “This scholarship is a testament to their support and a tremendous help to me and my family, as it will aide in the transition from school to my new career as a court reporter and will allow us to care for our needs while also enable us to spend value time in our volunteer work.”

Lora Zabiran

Recipient of the $1,000 scholarship was Lora Zabiran, a student at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “Winning this scholarship has made me feel included and not forgotten being only the second Canadian recipient so far,” said Zabiran. “I am honored by being chosen, and I’m thankful for the prize.”

Julie Layton

Julie Layton, a student at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, said she was both thrilled and honored to be the recipient of a $750 scholarship. “This award is helping to pay for my start-up equipment which a great start to my career,” she said. “Thank you for this opportunity you have given me.”

Patricia Lopez

The essay written by Patricia Lopez, a student at the College of Court Reporting, Valparaiso, Ind., earned her a $500 CASE scholarship. “Receiving the scholarship will help me accomplish my dream of becoming a court reporter and will provide me the opportunity to create a better life for my family,” she said. “I love the court reporting profession, and it is truly an honor to be part of this community,” Lopez added.

Lydia Palcuk, a student at MacCormac College, Chicago, Ill., was awarded a $250 scholarship. In her essay, Palcuk wrote that earning her RPR is a goal she cannot wait to accomplish. She recently passed her 180 words per minute speed and noted that she loves getting to see the progress she is making every day through her hard work.

Lydia Palcuk

“As important as it is to get through school, looking toward the goal of becoming a RPR is also vital,” Palcuk wrote. “I want to be as certified as I possibly can be in my career, and that is why getting the RPR means the world to me. When you earn that certification, you have the confidence to know you are accredited I your career.”

The winners will be recognized at an awards luncheon being held at NCRA’s 2019 Convention & Expo being held Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo.

For more information about the CASE Scholarships, contact Ellen Goff, NCRA Assistant Director, Professional Development at egoff@ncra.org, or visit NCRA.org.


Switching schools, switching careers

Zeke Alicea

Nineteen-year-old Zeke Alicea had a plan for his future that included a four-year degree. He was interested in the legal field, but nothing really clicked until a criminology professor discussed the role of court reporters. Alicea decided to turn in his $50,000/year tuition for a court reporting degree at community college.

UTS | You started your education at Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wis.,  and then transferred to MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. Why did you make the switch?

ZA | At Marquette, I was majoring in Clinical Laboratory Science. However, as I went through my first semester, I started to lose interest and look into other majors. I especially had a great interest in criminology. I was thinking I could be a lawyer, detective, forensic scientist, or even a criminologist. One day during one of my criminology lectures, my professor was telling us all the positions in the courtroom. One of them was obviously the court reporter. She told my class how it’s a profitable career and shared some of the skills required for being a court reporter. That was the first time I had ever heard of court reporting, and it immediately piqued my interest. I also noticed that people who are gamers or musicians have a tendency to do well in court reporting school.

Another reason was that I wanted to be back home with my family. Being at Marquette made me miss a lot of my close friends and family, and I like the control that I feel I have at home rather than living in a dorm. I also love being in Chicago since it’s an environment I’ve lived in all my life. Lastly, I made the switch because of the tuition at Marquette. The tuition was around $50,000. Of course, scholarships reduced the cost, but the tuition was still very high. The tuition at MacCormac is comparable to the tuition of a community college in Chicago. It’s very inexpensive at MacCormac, and now I don’t need to worry about finances while in school. 

UTS | Have you met any court reporters or captioners? What have you learned from them?

ZA | I’ve met quite a handful ever since I started school at MacCormac. The nice thing about court reporting is that it’s extremely easy to make connections since there are so few of us. I’ve met higher speed students, working court reporters, and even court reporters who have their own firms. From all the court reporters I have met, I firmly believe that just about anyone can pursue a career in court reporting as long as you have a strong determination. 

UTS |What has surprised you most about learning steno?

ZA | I think it’s really interesting that there are so many different theories for steno. Before I enrolled at MacCormac, I thought that every court reporter wrote shorthand the same way. I quickly learned that was not the case. I know that a lot of older theories would have you stroke out words phonetically, but a lot of the newer theories teach many neat briefs for those multisyllabic words. Another thing I like about steno is sharing my briefs and phrases with higher speed students who have learned a different theory. Occasionally, they will actually like my suggestions and incorporate those briefs in their dictionary. Lastly, I love how individualized it is when it comes to learning steno. One thing I noticed is not everybody strokes things the same way. One of my friends in class uses the “*F” for words that have a “V” in them while I use “-FB.” Furthermore, once you start becoming more settled with your theory, you can even start making up your own briefs and phrases. 

UTS | What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

ZA | The best advice I have been given is to start building your dictionary as soon as you can. Something about knowing that everything you stroke is going to translate on your real-time software really makes me feel reassured. There are also times when I’ll have a test, and just about everything translates. It’s a really exciting feeling, and it really builds up your confidence in your writing. Another great piece of advice I heard is to look at the person who is speaking when reporting. This might just be more of a personal preference, but I feel more focused when I’m watching the person who’s speaking. 

UTS | If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning? 

ZA | I would tell them that it’s in high demand and that there’s practically 100 percent job availability when you graduate. I would tell them you only need a two-year degree to be a court reporter and that there’s a high earning potential. Their age is the perfect time to get into court reporting since our minds are still developing, so we’re able to absorb information easily. (That will be very handy when learning the ridiculous amounts of phrases and briefs.) I would tell them that having a background in music or video games can help, and even if you’re not into either of those, you can still do well in this field. And lastly, I would tell them how much a fun career in court reporting is. Every day when I’m court reporting, I’m always learning something new, and I always get to hear interesting court stories.

UTS | What is your dream job? Where do you see yourself in five  years?

ZA | My dream job would be, well, a court reporter! I definitely would like to have the opportunity as a court reporter to provide captions for a Cubs game! In five years, I will be with a court reporting firm and downtown (I’m not that into the whole freelance reporting gig), and I would also like to be participating in speed competitions at that time. I would also want to be known as a trustworthy and distinguished court reporter who is very passionate about his job.

MacCormac College’s court reporting program was recently featured on Chicago Tonight, a local PBS program. Watch the news story and a television interview with Alicea here.

Alternatives to traditional college: Become a court reporter

An article posted by Forbes on Feb. 1 features an interview with M. Alexis Stephens, president of MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill., about the benefits of attending court reporting school versus a four-year college.

Read more.

Highlights from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: A student’s experience

Four young women pose in matching light blue shirts with steno written on the front

MacCormac students wear matching shirts at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: (l-r) Ariel Kraut, Brianna Uhlman, Marissa Loring, and Hailey Treasure

By Ariel Kraut

I am very appreciative for the time I got to spend at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas. What a fun and vibrant location for court reporters to come together and connect as a community!

On our first day, we visited the Expo Hall and got to explore many innovations in reporting technology. Things that I never even thought of, like ergonomic machines, different types of travel bags, all kinds of software, and much more, were on display. We got some great swag and were able to connect with vendors from all types of companies related to the field. I loved the neon light-up writer!

It was amazing to see all of the different types of new technology associated with the Stenograph machines knowing that I will soon be purchasing my own when I finish school. I really enjoyed watching a demonstration involving the audio-recording capabilities of the Luminex writer. Not only can you direct it to go back to the last question you asked in a testimony dictation, but the audio-sync feature allows you to listen to the actual dictation in addition to seeing the question on your screen. If only I had that available during tests!

My favorite part of the Convention was the being able to speak with reporters from all different fields. It was exciting to have so many people come up to us, knowing that we were students, and introduce themselves. All of the pros were so warm and welcoming to us. People from all over the country were so happy to see us students and had nothing but the most encouraging things to say. I even spoke with the President of NCRA multiple times and felt great about it. It was inspiring to see that many of the people we spoke with actually won awards for the Speed and Realtime Contests and were honored during the luncheon.

An especially good time for networking was in the “Steno Speed Dating” part of the first day of the student track. We got to sit with very successful reporters, including speed contest winners, realtime writers, captioners, and even a court reporter who worked in the House of Representatives. It is inspiring to see the places that this career can take you if you apply yourself. I also appreciated hearing about these professionals’ school experiences and what the biggest struggles were for each of them. I got some practice tips and some great advice as to how I can clean up my notes and build my speed at the same time.

Another very beneficial session was “Business of Being a Court Reporter.” There, we got to see a mock deposition take place with a panel of professional reporters pausing to explain certain parts of the process. They would also tell us what they would do if something unusual would happen and frequent issues that may come up on the job.

I am very thankful that I was able to attend this Convention as I found it reinvigorating for me as a student. School can be stressful sometimes, but seeing all of these successful women and men in the field made me feel like I was on the right track and I have a great life to look forward to in this field.

Ariel Kraut is a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at akraut@maccormac.edu.

Read “Finding court reporters’ paradise” by MacCormac student Brianna Uhlman.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.








Finding court reporters’ paradise

By Brianna Uhlman

The NCRA Convention & Expo is like the Shangri-la of court reporting. The things you learn, the relationships you build, and the experiences you take with you are irreplaceable. You leave motivated to finish school and determined to make the most out of your time in this profession.

Four young women pose in matching light blue shirts with steno written on the front

MacCormac students wear matching shirts at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: (l-r) Ariel Kraut, Brianna Uhlman, Marissa Loring, and Hailey Treasure

The Expo Hall at the NCRA Convention is truly a magical place. Even as a student, the exhibitors are so willing and eager to talk to you and show you all that is new in the world of court reporting. In the Expo Hall, you can learn so much about the newest technology, whether it’s machines, updates in software, etc. You get to test out different machines from all different vendors. You have the opportunity to learn about several different companies that are involved in the court reporting world. You have the opportunity to talk face-to-face with some of the business owners and representatives who you will be working with for the rest of your career. And you can win so much free stuff!

Getting the chance to mingle with some of the top reporters around the country and the globe is such an invaluable experience. Talking with members of the Board, speed contest champions, and the like is extremely motivational. For me personally, I come from a small town with small dreams and not a lot of opportunity. When first enrolling in court reporting school and joining the court reporting community, I had no idea where this career could take me. But at events like the NCRA Convention, you get to know these amazing and successful people who may have come from a situation similar to yours. But because of this profession and all of the opportunity and their personal hard work and dedication, they have taken themselves so far. It makes you dream bigger and work harder for those dreams. It shows you that no matter your background or your current standing, there is no limit to where this profession can take you. If you work hard, stay motivated, and keep pushing yourself to get through school, you can have a very successful and fulfilling career.

Having the opportunity to talk to other students from all over the country is so encouraging. It really makes you realize that you are not alone in the struggles of court reporting school. There is a whole community of students who are having difficulty with speeds, getting stuck in similar areas, and experiencing the same discouragements you are experiencing. But being able to discuss these experiences and learn about other people’s techniques and tricks is so helpful. They are there to encourage you to keep going. Seeing the resilient spirit of other students is inspiring. Experiencing the genuine care and comradery from other students creates such an honest atmosphere of support and sincerity. It truly is a community of people that want to see you succeed in this profession, and that is just not something you see very often.

I am so thankful for the court reporting community. And I am so thankful for the NCRA Convention & Expo that creates the opportunity for this community to come together and create positive, long-lasting impacts on its members and their profession.

Brianna Uhlman is a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at brianna.uhlman@gmail.com.

Read “Highlights from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: A student’s experience” by MacCormac student Ariel Kraut.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.








Court reporting students attend FDCC Deposition Boot Camp for real-life experience training

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn June 13, MacCormac College students Alyssa Rufus, Rachel Wolfe, Robyn Falasz, and Shannon Dovgin attended the Deposition Boot Camp hosted by the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel. The Boot Camp consisted of several mock depositions so court reporting students and law students could gain hands-on experience.

Read more.








It takes drive to commit to court reporting school

: Kaitlyn Spurgeon, left, and Rachel Otto, right, share a goal and a commute

Kaitlyn Spurgeon, left, and Rachel Otto, right, share a goal and a commute

Court reporting students are much like the professionals in the business they are destined to enter: determined, hardworking, dedicated, and devoted. As with any profession, it can often be a long hard ride to the big time. But in the case of Kaitlyn Spurgeon and Rachel Otto, students at MacCormac College of Court Reporting in Chicago, Ill., the ride each day maybe long, but the support they have for each other in conquering school isn’t very hard to come by.

Spurgeon, a resident of Antioch, Ill., and Otto, a resident of Genoa City, Wis., live about 15 miles apart, and each school day they spend up to two hours a day together commuting each way to MacCormac. Up-to-Speed reached out to them to find out what keeps them motivated and on course in regards to their studies, and why they make the long trek they do several days a week.

Do you find you motivate each other during your commute?

KS — We definitely do motivate each other during the commute. After a long day of work, we do get tired and the drive is difficult, but we try to keep a conversation going to keep us awake and if all else fails, I have my iPod with more than a thousand songs to keep us entertained. We also have a game to try to find license plates from all 50 states.

RO — Kaitlyn and I definitely motivate each other throughout the commute. We will talk about our class and the difficulties we are having, and we also distract each other by playing games.

Some people might think that choosing an online program would be better than committing to a four-hour daily commute to attend brick-and-mortar classes. What would you say to that thinking?

KS — Well, I’ve come to understand that court reporting isn’t an easy skill to learn right away, and I was told by current court reporters that having an actual in-person class would be better for this skill than trying to learn it on my own through an online class.

RO — I like the idea of an online class just because I live on a farm and I am very busy here, but I also really love the school, and I learn best by being there physically and actually being able to see the teacher and ask questions. I think it is a better option for me at the moment.

What time do you leave for school each day and what time do you start your trip home?

KS — We leave for school after work at around 3  p.m. and arrive at school between 5 and 5:30 p.m. We leave school around 8 p.m. and get home between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m., as the traffic home can get pretty bad.

What is the most frustrating factor, besides the length, of your commute?

KS — I think one big downside of the commute isn’t the frustrating part; it’s the downright scary parts. You hear a lot about really bad car accidents, drunk drivers, and now there’s even people shooting each other on the highway. We go pretty fast on the highway along with everyone else, and we’ve both seen how careless a lot of people are when they drive.

How do you make up practice time given that you are on the road so long each day?

KS — I squeeze practice time between my two jobs and school whenever I can. There’s not much room for relaxation time in my world right now, but I’m totally okay with that. I love keeping busy, so whenever I have a chance to sit down, I have a steno machine in front of me.

RO — Practice time is at night. I stay up pretty late, until around 1 a.m., just to get practice in and then go to work at 6 a.m. Practice is very important, and we need time for it. Sleep is for later.

Do your classmates support your dedication to your program?

KS — To be totally honest, almost all of our other classmates have already given up on court reporting and stopped showing up. So Rachael is my only classmate. But yes, she is very supportive, and so is my teacher.

RO — My classroom is just three people including Kaitlyn. They support it and think it is crazy that we drive all the way over there for school.

How far along are you in your court reporting education?

KS — We are just about to wrap up our first semester, and I personally love it. Time really does fly when you’re having fun, and shorthand has been such a blast to learn and use so far.

RO — I am in the first class: Machine Shorthand Theory 1. I am just starting school for court reporting.

What area of the profession do you hope to enter upon graduation: official, freelancer, or CART or broadcast captioner?

KS — Honestly, I’m hoping to dabble in anything I can. I definitely want to be in a courtroom and a lawyer’s office for a while, but I would also love to be a captioner. I think I’ll switch it up every few years.

RO — I am thinking of becoming an official.

What attracted you to a career in court reporting?

KS — Rachael’s aunt has been a court reporter for more than 20 years, and she let us come to her office to see what she does. She pulled out the machine and started typing everything Rachael was saying, and as I watched, I fell in love. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and right then and there I knew I wanted to learn that skill. Just like some people see someone play and guitar and think, “I want to be like that;” that was me.

RO — My two aunts have been court reporters for more than 28 years, and they absolutely love it. My one aunt kept pushing me to try it out and see if I like it or not. She helped me find a school and went with me to get check out MacCormac.

What would you say to encourage others thinking about entering the field?

KS — It definitely takes a lot of dedication and time, but once you start getting the hang of it, it’s all you think about. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Court reporting is definitely worth it.

RO — I definitely encourage others to practice, practice, practice! Ask any questions you have if you don’t understand anything. Always go to class; missing one thing for learning the keyboard or anything is very bad and will possible set you back.

 

Do you know a student or students who should be in the spotlight? Let us know. Students in the spotlight must currently attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program.








MacCormac College to host “A Toast to Court Reporting”

Students practicing steno

Photo by Crystal Wiley-Brown Photography

Senior leadership, students, and faculty from the court reporting program at MacCormac College, Chicago, Ill., are hosting an open reunion/reception for alumni and professionals attending the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, taking place Aug. 4-7 at the Hilton Chicago.

This evening of celebration and appreciation will take place Fri., Aug. 5 from 6-8 p.m. at the college’s campus located in the heart of historic downtown Chicago at 29 E. Madison St. – minutes from the convention site. Students from the college’s court reporting program will be on hand to help lead walking tour groups to the school from the Hilton Chicago for the reception.

MacCormac College is the premier two-year, private, non-profit institution in the State of Illinois, approved by the National Court Reporters Association and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Founded in 1904, MacCormac is home to the oldest court reporting school in the nation.

In addition to its associate degree program in court reporting, MacCormac College also offers continuing education programs, such as CART and captioning. The continuing education programs were specifically designed for working reporters who are interested in boosting earning potential, bolstering credentials, and growing their career. The entire program taught by accomplished, widely recognized faculty contains three modules, each held on Saturdays to accommodate a full-time work schedule.

To RSVP and for more information about “A Toast to Court Reporting” reception, contact Jenny Dick at jdick@maccormac.edu, or visit the MacCormac College booth in the convention Expo Hall.

For more information or questions about MacCormac’s continuing education program, contact Peg Dorchack at mskalski@maccormac.edu.








NCRA member and alumna gives keynote at MacCormac College spring commencement

MacCormac College, Chicago, Ill., has announced that NCRA member Rhonda Jensen, RDR, CRR, president and founder of Jensen Litigation Solutions, will serve as the keynote speaker for the spring commencement of the school’s court reporting, paralegal studies, criminal justice, and business administration programs. The annual ceremony is held this year on Fri., May 13.

Read more.








Increased demand for CART prompts course to help achieve realtime

An increase in the demand for CART services in the Chicago, Ill., metro area recently prompted MacCormac College last fall to launch a course geared toward working reporters and graduates of NCRA-certified court reporting programs wanting to transition to realtime or achieve realtime certification.

“There has been increased demand for CART services in the Chicagoland area,” says the college’s court reporting program director Margaret Sokalski-Dorchack. “Also, official court reporters can move up in salary if they attain realtime certification. Some judicial reporters are looking to transition into CART and captioning.”

Funded by a five-year grant the college received from the U.S. Department of Education’s Training for Realtime Writers grant program, which is part of the Higher Education Affordability Act, MacCormac’s program has attracted attendees with experience ranging from 10 to 20 years of professional reporting, Dorchack notes.

When the program first began, it was conducted over three semesters and included six classes of three hours each for a total of 270 clock hours, she explains. However, based on feedback from the students and the court reporting community, the program was revised and is now being offered as a continuing education program consisting of three modules of 40 hours.

“The first module focuses on improving realtime writing. The second module continues work on improving realtime writing and includes specific instruction on CART. The third module continues work on improving realtime writing and includes specific instruction on captioning,” Dorchack says.

“The students have been enthusiastic and grateful for the program. The courses are designed to help students attain realtime certification. It wasn’t promoted as a prep course specifically. However, it could help to improve speed for realtime certification.”

According to Kathy A. Cortopassi, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Crown Point, Ind., a court reporter with 30 years of experience who has also provided CART and captioning services for 20 years, the course offered by MacCormac is especially useful for reporters who want to spend less time editing out errors, reduce conflicts, improve accuracy, compete in NCRA’s realtime contest, or just plain improve their skills.

“I actually would like to learn how to be a better teacher,” Cortopassi says. She anticipates that having taken the class will help her to achieve her Certified Realtime Instructor certification.

“These classes are intense and focused. One student lowered her untrans rate by 1 percent, which is amazing when you get closer to the 100 percent accuracy rate. She was so happy and proud of her accomplishment and motivated to keep on working on her writing, to improve further, and learn more.”

According to Dorchack, the college plans to offer the realtime-focused course again in 2016. For more information, contact Natasha Meeajane, director of communications, at nmeeajane@maccormac.edu.