We did it again! This past spring, the Fearless Stenographers community convened in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Fearless Stenographers Conference 2023.  Several months prior, I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to pull it off, but God gets all the glory for making it possible.

Tragedy Strikes.  On November 28, 2022, while mulling over committees and coordinating teams of volunteers to ensure that Atlanta would be an amazing steno experience, I picked up a call identified as “Scam Likely.”  (Yes, I answer all calls.)  However, the person on the other end of the line was calling from the hospital, looking for the next of kin to my little brother Stevie Day.  My brother was in a serious accident.  In that split second, my world stopped.  I dropped everything, including steno, to rush to the side of my little brother.

There are two things that I love with my whole heart:  Stevie and steno.  My little brother, a pedestrian, had been hit by a reckless driver, a tragic incident that would upend my world.  After remaining in the ICU for approximately four weeks, the Good Lord called Stevie home to be with our mother on December 23rd, 2022.

To this day the loss of my little brother leaves me feeling bewildered, sad, hurt, and confused.  Up until that point, I had never felt so alone.  Though some might say “That’s life,” little do they know that Stevie was my everything.  Here I was engrossed in planning a conference and now an unexpected funeral, struggling to find the strength to do it all.  I asked myself, how can I get off this emotional roller coaster and back to business?   Though I had no answers, God did.

On January 13, 2023, we held a funeral service for Stevie, who, in a million years, I never would have thought I would be burying.  After all, he was my little brother.  It was supposed to be the other way around; at least that is how I had imagined it.  Nonetheless, we laid Stevie to rest, knowing that, on this day, he would be safely enveloped in the eternal embrace of our mother’s arms, a place that we both had desired to be since she departed prematurely from this world.

Picking Up the Pieces.  On the following day, January 14, it was time to set my sadness and grief aside and catch up on planning the conference.  I vividly recall laying it all out before God, asking why and how.  Everything suddenly seemed messy, disordered, and incomplete. The 320 wpm test, which had to be coordinated, left me wondering how on Earth I’d make it happen.  I wouldn’t be able to reach out to any competitors this time around, including Allie Hall, who would be competing.  “Lord, how can I make this work?”

And then there were the sponsors.  Here it was 90 days before the conference, and my mind was flooded with questions.  Lord, how will we attract them?  Should I cancel? Since the contract for the hotel has already been signed, should I refund everyone’s money and take a huge loss?  Even though our first block of hotel rooms is filled, can the show truly go on? 

Behind the scenes, I was a disaster, and everything around me seemed to be falling apart.  I couldn’t stop thinking about my beloved brother and mother and the emptiness I was feeling inside.  How do I pull it all together? 

After many long, sleepless nights spent pacing the floor at 3:00 a.m., praying and fasting, fasting and praying, I knew I had to woman up and just believe that it would all work out somehow.  When I started to embrace the fact that no weapon formed against me will prosper, it was then that God impressed upon me to just trust the process, assuring me that it would all work out to His glory.  And with His blessed assurance, I rolled up my sleeves and got busy. 

I share this deeply personal story with you because this is the gritty part of life that we often don’t get to see.  Social media gives us the false impression that all is perfect, easy, seamless, requiring little effort or elbow grease.  But then there’s reality.  Planning a conference singlehandedly without a team, I soon discovered, is an unhealthy, arduous undertaking that I will never attempt again.  However, since it didn’t seem right or fair to hand off incomplete, messy assignments to others at that time, I rolled up my sleeves and resolved to just get it done.  After all, this is hard work that will only create stress and anxiety for those whose passion does not run deep for steno.

Answered Prayer.  As I continued to have faith, renew my mind, believe, and trust the process, the next thing I knew, a few individuals reached out to ask if they could serve as sponsors.  And then a few more sponsors rolled in.  Though Steno in the City (SITC) is small and typically falls short on the back end, it does big things in terms of promoting our profession and bringing the steno community together.  We trust that our sponsor list will continue to grow as we set out to do outstanding things for the court reporting and captioning community.

Needless to say, God intervened to ensure the resounding success of our Fearless Stenographers Conference on April 13 through April 15, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia, a recap of which follows.  Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of my brother, I am happy to report that we, as a team, came together and pulled off another epic conference.  Three weeks before the event, I delegated tasks to my steno tribe, who I appreciate to the moon and back.  In Atlanta it was all hands on deck. The SITC community convened to make the conference a magical, inspirational, and fun weekend for all.

The Fearless Stenographers Conferences are intended to give attendees the impression that every detail was arranged just for them.  When you attend our conference, we want you to feel like the star that you are.  You are the highly skilled stenographer, a top-notch professional who deserves to be celebrated in an upscale environment with luxurious décor and an ambiance that will leave you feeling empowered so that when you walk into your next deposition, courtroom, or classroom, you can hold your head high with the confidence that comes from knowing that you are the gold standard of reporting.

The Fearless Stenographers Conference – Day 1 – Social Networking Event


The Fearless Stenographers Conference kicked off at 6:00 p.m. on April 13, 2023, with a networking event on the 26th floor of the Buckhead Club, overlooking the stunning Atlanta cityscape.  As the attendees arrived, they were introduced to an engaging custom dance floor emblazoned with “Steno in the City.”  The elevated deejay booth also featured “Steno in the City” décor.  In another part of the room, an oversized lit-up marquee that read “STENO” was situated along a balloon arch.  A few feet away, a saxophonist entertained the crowd with alluring tunes to set the mood, while a 360-degree photo booth for picture-taking and a mobile bar kept the glasses filled with exotic mocktails.  Guests were treated to a glorious dessert bar featuring a custom two-tier cake and chocolate-dipped strawberries and caramel apples.  These are just some of the intricate details that served to enhance the elegance of the setting.

To kick off the networking event, Steno in the City received the Proclamation from the City of Atlanta, raising awareness of our court reporting and captioning profession.  We would like to thank Councilman Westland for making this possible.  The Proclamation was presented by guest speaker and dear friend Odie Donald, Chief of Staff, City of Atlanta, who spoke on the topic of public service and civic awareness.

After the Proclamation ceremony came guest speaker and dear friend Justin Tanner, Former White House Obama Appointee.  Tanner welcomed the conference attendees to Atlanta and introduced our next guest speaker, The Honorable Judge JaDawnya Baker.  Following Judge Baker was The Honorable Judge Diane E. Bessen.  Both esteemed judges eloquently spoke about the legal profession as a whole and the importance of making the record, expressing appreciation to our court reporting professionals.  Next on the speaker lineup was Attorney Michael Roth from Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys.  We would like to give a shout-out to Justin Miller, Esq, for making this possible on such short notice.  We then heard from our very own Kimberly D’Urso, proud stenographer and co-founder of Protect Your Record Project, whose mission is to unite the entire legal community.  Kimberly shared that as technology evolves, so will our court reporting and captioning profession; thus it is important to create a space where we can continually collaborate to advocate, educate, and celebrate who we are and what we do.

As the evening unfolded, guests had a fabulous time mingling in the company of their colleagues.  Creating opportunities for our hard-working steno community to have fun, dance, take pictures, and network in an intimate setting brings tremendous value to every one of us.

Once we returned to our hotel, several reporters gathered to remember my brother Stevie, gifting me with a bracelet and necklace featuring a photograph of me and my little brother.  I would like to thank Denee Vadell, Charisse Kitt, Stephanie Hicks, Kerry Murphy, Shacara Mapp, Jennifer Billstein, Allie Hall, and Kensie Benoit for their thoughtfulness.  I truly appreciate you all for strengthening me during one of the most difficult times that I have endured.  



The Fearless Stenographers Conference – Day 2

Day two of the conference, April 14, 2023, began with our All-star Keynote speakers.  First on the roster was Whitney Kumar, CA, CSR, CCRR, CLR, the court stenographer for “Judy Justice,” the landmark daytime courtroom television show featuring Judge Judy Sheindlin.  Whitney, whose keynote was broadcast remotely, reminded our stenographers to step outside of their comfort zone and say “Yes” to every opportunity to advance our profession.  She reminded them that they are indeed fearless, and there is nothing that they cannot do. 

Next up was Kim Xavier, who fired up the crowd, bringing our sstenographers to their feet, feeling energized, empowered, and motivated to celebrate their wins and put themselves first.  For the remainder of the day, attendees participated in additional top-tier, highly rated seminar sessions that edified, inspired, and enlightened.

Day two of the conference concluded with the Steno United Cupcake and Cocktails Happy Hour.  During this fun networking event, attendees enjoyed wine and custom cupcakes on a balcony overlooking the Atlanta skyline.  This was also an opportunity to interact with our vendors, who introduced our conference attendees to their exciting product offerings and services. Finally, the evening ended as guests gathered with old friends and new acquaintances before heading off to enjoy a night on the town to continue the celebration.



The Fearless Stenographers Conference – Day 3 – Awards Luncheon

On April 15, 2023, the final day of the conference, attendees participated in more seminar sessions.  This was followed by our annual Awards Luncheon, an inspiring and moving event.  In fact, by the time it was over, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  In our industry, many reporters work tirelessly and quietly behind the scenes, volunteering their time and giving back to the profession.  Therefore it was important for us to honor and pay homage to a few of our stand-out colleagues who selflessly give of themselves to help others succeed in our profession.



The People’s Choice Award 2023. 


This year’s People’s Choice Award was presented to Denee Vadell.  Over the course of several weeks, we invited our steno community to vote for the person who has been most instrumental in efforts to promote our profession on social media, and this year that person was Denee.  This is always a close race, and we appreciate everyone who goes above and beyond for the court reporting and captioning profession.

Philanthropy Award 2023.  The Philanthropy Award 2023 went to Kimberly D’Urso of the Protect Your Record Project (PYRP).  Both Kimberly and Kelly Bryce Shainline started a movement that I don’t think the industry could have ever envisioned.  These ladies started a group to compel the industry to start advocating for the court reporting and captioning profession.  Congratulations to PYRP for leading by example and for effectively representing the interests of our profession. 

Lifetime Achievement Award 2023.  The Lifetime Achievement Award 2023 was presented to Charisse Kitt for her kindness, generosity of spirit, and dedication to paying it forward. 

I am certain that by now most of you know my story.  For those who don’t, please allow me to briefly share. 

At a national conference back in 2014 where I didn’t know anyone, my social anxiety and fear of large crowds made it extremely difficult for me to participate in the lunch hour where everyone typically gets together to dine with friends.  Thus I didn’t have anyone to have lunch with and was planning to retreat to my car until the start of the afternoon seminar sessions.  For introverts like me, being in a new environment among large groups elicits an uneasiness that brings back memories of the first day of school.  Just the thought of being alone in an unfamiliar setting leaves us feeling apprehensive and anxious. 

Lo and behold, when Charisse Kitt noticed that I was alone, she invited me to have lunch with her and a group of friends.  From the moment I met Charisse, Kendra James, and Montrell Vann, my life forever changed.  In fact, I sometimes wonder where I’d be if Charisse hadn’t invited me to sit at their table.  That one act of kindness continues to have a reverberating impact on my life for which I am deeply grateful.

If you are a student who is interested in attending a national convention and I am there, please reach out to me.  I would be honored to have lunch with you.  Charisse started this movement with her spirit of inclusivity and willingness to pay it forward, and we are committed to continuing the tradition.

Making Connections.  I would also like to give a shout-out to Carlos Martinez, former president of CCRA, to whom I was introduced at the very same conference where I’d met Charisse Kitt.  Carlos urged me to become more involved in the national association and join committees.  Thus 2014 was the year that I was encouraged to step outside of my box, create spaces, and invite everyone to have a seat at the table. 

I would eventually go on, at the annual convention in New Orleans in 2018, to start Lunch Buddy Dates for students, where we would pair them with working reporters to ensure that no one had to dine alone.  We then arranged Virtual Lunch Buddy Dates to pair up students and reporters for the annual convention in Denver in 2020 as well as in-person lunch dates in Las Vegas in 2021.  Although leadership would eventually decide to discontinue pairing up students and reporters for lunch dates, the tangible impact of the connections that were forged over the years lives on.

Honoring Our Steno Legends.  Our Steno Honors Tribute was held where we presented certificates to eight veteran court reporters with 40-plus years in the profession.  Four-plus decades of service is a remarkable achievement.  Thus we wanted to acknowledge our recipients and allow them to say a few words to our conference attendees.  They are as follows:  Donna Carbine Urlaub, 54 years of service; Pamela Taylor, 50 years of service as of July 2023; Ron Cook, 46 years of service; Cindy Romero, 45 years of service; Camille MacComber, 45 years of service; Carl Sauceda, 45 years of service; Diane King, 44 years of service; and Karen Tyler, 43 years of service.  We will continue to honor and pay homage to those who paved the way for members of our time-honored profession.  To you we extend our congratulations and gratitude for serving and protecting the stenographic record.

Steno in the City Trailblazer Award 2023.  The 2023 Trailblazer Award was presented to McKalie Bellew, a new professional as of 2023.  McKalie was determined to become a court reporter within one year.  She met Allie Hall during last year’s Fearless Stenographers Conference in Houston, Texas. Through Allie’s program, McKalie finished school in nine months.  During this time she went from 140 to 160 wpm to completing the program.

For this Trailblazer Award, we assembled a package designed specifically for McKalie, which would provide her with everything she would need as she embarked on her career as a stenographer.  This included a $500 New Professional Scholarship by Pay It Forward; a one-hour training session with Protect Your Record Project; six hours of Case Catalyst software training given by Kathryn Dittmeier; a one-way airfare and one-night hotel stay provided by Shaunise Day; shopping spree, and professional attire consultation with Lamarra George, must-have essentials for court reporting professionals.

As newly minted professionals continue to enter the profession, we felt that it was time to incorporate something fun into the program by arranging a shopping spree with a working reporter.  Thus Steno in the City will give all future Trailblazer Award recipients one complete professional look. 

Once Lamarra George learned of McKalie’s story, which personally resonated with her, she instantly established a personal bond with her.  Lamarra went above and beyond, superseding the one professional look gifted to the Trailblazer Award winner, and set McKalie up with a new start-up professional wardrobe.  As a result, McKalie left the conference feeling confident, inspired, and well prepared to start her career as a stenographer . 

We also wanted to acknowledge another new professional trailblazer, Anna Mar-Lazo. Anna was gifted a Whataburger gift card sponsored by Janet Solorzano.  Anna has done an outstanding job with her social media platform.  She walks her followers daily through nearly every job experience that she has as a working reporter, offering a platform where we can all learn about each other’s common and unique experiences.  Anna is also the host of the Steno Talk Podcast that was created to inform, uplift, and inspire members of our profession.

Steno in the City is committed to continuing to create initiatives for our students and new professionals to help them as they prepare for and embark on their exciting careers, and we trust that we can count on you for your support in this endeavor.

Additional Scholarships.  This year we invited our students to write an essay on the topic entitled, “Overcoming adversity means getting past obstacles and challenges that stand in your way.”  Thank you to all who submitted essays, which we enjoyed reading.

We awarded two students with scholarships. The winners were Wanda Rosado, 180 wpm student from Plaza College, and Madison Bautista, 170 wpm student from Simply Steno’s online program. 

We would like to thank Pay It Forward for sponsoring both scholarships.

Thank you to Pay It Forward, Sandy Rodrigue Narup, and Traci Martens for assisting Allie Hall with grading. 

A Special Award.  An unexpected moment that took place during the Awards Luncheon occurred when the team surprised me with a special award.  Reeling from shock and having grown more accustomed to giving out awards as opposed to receiving them, I tried my best to regroup and keep it together. 

Part of my purpose in life is to serve and help others.  Steno is my passion.  In fact, it’s 95 percent of my life.  I am a hardcore steno who lives vicariously through a few of you.  Whatever I can do to add value, empower, motivate, and advocate for the stenographic record, just know that it comes from the heart.  I offer my deepest gratitude for this award.

Goodie Bags.  Finally, a special shout-out goes to Steno Swag and Klor Steno Key Design for providing the goodie bags for our raffle, which concluded the Awards Luncheon. 

Steno United Photo Shoot.  Immediately following the luncheon, we ended the final day of the conference with our Steno United color block-themed photo shoot.  These fun picture-taking sessions were conceived to continue to promote our profession with an array of fresh new faces adorned in professional attire.  Please click on our photo gallery to view the photos, which we’re sure you will enjoy. 

What’s Next?  Now that our latest event has drawn to a close, you might be wondering, what’s next for Steno in the City?  Well, we’re glad you asked.  Next up will be a networking event with a twist in Houston, Texas, on July 27, 2023, at 6:30 p.m., which will be held in the Ballroom at Bayou Place.  If you are in the surrounding area or are planning to attend NCRA’s annual conference and are looking for something to do, this is an event that you do not want to miss.  So please mark your calendars.

On October 6 through 9, 2023, we will hold our second annual Unwind and De-stress Retreat.

Our next Fearless Stenographers Conference will take place in California next spring 2024.  Stay tuned.

With positive energy, terrific people, teamwork, and kindness, Steno in the City continues its mission to unify the court reporting and captioning profession.

With Gratitude.  Special thanks to Lamarra George, Shacara Mapp, and Allie Hall.  As always, I am grateful to you for having my back in my personal and professional lives.  I truly appreciate you ladies.

I would like to thank all the members of the Steno in the City tribe.  You are my people.  Without you, all that we’re doing to support our court reporting and captioning community would not be possible.  Thank you for going above and beyond for Steno in the City and for promoting and protecting our profession.  Whenever I am stuck, need advice or assistance with meeting a deadline, or find myself in the throes of a dilemma, it is comforting to know that you all are willing to step in to lend a helping hand.

Finally, special thanks to Denee Vadell, Stephanie Hicks, Kerry Murphy, Anna Mar-Lazo, Jose Lazo, Kensie Benoit, Nicole Rubia, McKalie Bellew, Linda Lee, Paul Forte, Charisse Kitt, Angie Murphy, Jennifer, Traci Martens, Sandy Rodrigue Narup, Donna Urlaub, Karen Tyler, Sonia Trevino, Annie Mueller, Alycia Story Mikels, Lydia Martinez, Monica Bailey, Julien George, Justin Tanner, Odie Donald, and Jay Baxter.  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. 

One Team.  One Goal.  STENO.