Forest Hills Plaza College court reporter students compete for title of ‘fastest fingers’ in national competition

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Photo by ABC 7

More than 100 students from Plaza College in Forest Hills qualified to compete in a national contest to showcase the speed and accuracy required to serve as a court reporter.

One of the most in-demand professions, court reporters are the official record keepers and documentarians for civil and criminal trials, for arbitration hearings, Grand Jury and all appeals, as well as documenting key governmental events and proceedings.

The 2020 National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) Student Skills Contest included court stenography students battling others from across the nation to achieve a minimum of 96 percent accuracy, while listening and transcribing five minutes of dictation at a pace of 225 words per minute. 

Court reporting students shows how to use a stenotype (Photo by ABC 7)

Plaza College student Eileen Quiles, of Manhattan, won the competition. The mother of two took a mid-career leap of faith and enrolled in the program after a 20-year career as a senior court analyst. 

Quiles became hooked after participating in Plaza’s “A to Z” Program, which offers a free introduction to the stenotype machine for those interested or curious about a career in the court reporting profession. “A to Z” can be conducted virtually or in the classroom. 

“I was at this place in my career where I wanted something with more responsibility and more of a challenge. I stumbled into court reporting and quickly fell in love with the idea of being responsible for the courts’ official record,” said Quiles. “To succeed in court reporting, it takes drive and the will to push yourself to practice and get better. The way I see it, is that you can do anything you want in life and I chose to pursue something that is fun and excites me.”

The New York State Unified Court System has identified a court reporting staff shortage, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 7 percent increase by the year 2028, categorizing it as a hot career field. 

Adding to the surge in demand for court reporters, television shows, Hollywood films and live events including the Oscars, Grammy Awards, and Super Bowl, are all in need for these professionals to provide real-time captioning to convert speech to text for their audiences.

Plaza College is the only educational institution in New York City to offer a court reporting program, serving over 200 students each year. 

“We are extremely proud of Eileen and all of the students who come through Plaza’s program and go on to build successful and well-compensated careers in both the courts and in closed captioning for the film, television and broadcast industry,” said Karen Santucci, industry veteran and Plaza Court reporting program director. 

Plaza College offers a free NCRA-sanctioned “A to Z: Introduction to Stenography” for all those interested in court reporting. The course teaches how to use a stenotype and start writing shorthand, introductory skills all future reporters will take with them in either the legal sector or captioning.