The Americas High School Libertas Academy has partnered with the El Paso Community College to offer students a unique opportunity in a new court reporting program.
The new program developed through a collaboration between the SISD Career and Technical Education department and EPCC gives students the pathway to earn an associate degree in court reporting by the time they graduate from high school.
“It is an awesome opportunity because it satisfies everything that Libertas stands for regarding law, government and public administration,” said Eduardo Hinojos, Libertas Academy coordinator.
Students will learn legal terminology, court systems, court procedures, and more about the judicial system. They will learn the skills and knowledge necessary to capture live testimony in a variety of settings including court hearings and trials, depositions, and sworn statements.
The SISD CTE department assisted in purchasing the stenographic machines and other tools needed for students to learn the skills of the trade. They will learn to use the technology and how to transform the testimonies into official certified transcripts.
The training and opportunity to earn an associate degree will allow students to be ready for the workforce as a court reporter or to expand that career into other areas, such as the entertainment industry or broadcasting.
EPCC court reporting instructor Bertha Prieto said she is excited to educate the students in the Libertas Academy and to share her 20 years of court reporting experience with them.
“I know the students in Libertas feel a sense of commitment to the program,” Prieto said. “They take this seriously and are dedicated.”
The collaboration between EPCC, SISD CTE and the Libertas Academy was a natural for the court reporting program because of the focus on law and government at Americas High School, Hinojos said. When the college reached out to the school and district, the Libertas Academy educators were eager to collaborate to implement the program.
“This is not possible without our partnership with EPCC,” he said. “They were instrumental in making this possible.”
The Libertas Academy in SISD was the first program in the state to offer law, government, and public administration studies to high school students. The academy has provided a framework that many across the state and country have been trying to replicate, said SISD CTE director George Thomas.
“Success is all about the instructors,” Thomas said. “Mr. Hinojos and his two colleagues, attorneys Ms. Amanda Stevens and Mr. Saul Anaya, provide quality and relevant instruction and experiences that help in building student interest that shape their future.”
With the new court reporting program in the Libertas Academy, students will have more opportunities for a lucrative future. Court reporting is a fast-growing career with many openings in the current job market and it is still projected to grow, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Students can make a substantial living with a starting pay at an average of $75,000 in El Paso with an associate degree, Hinojos said.
“For our students to be able to get their associates and make that kind of money straight out of high school is amazing,” he said.
The program in the Libertas Academy is the only one of its kind in the state for high school students and is rare, even at a national level, according to the state and national associations for court reporters.
“To be one of the first speaks volumes about our mindset in the academy and the district because we are always looking to innovate and are all about opportunities,” Hinojos said. “We are always trying to think outside the box and bring more programs like this to SISD and create them to not only lead the way in the region, but at the state and even at the national level.”
The court reporting program already has appealed to students who see it as a great career gateway and a way to put themselves through college.
“It seemed like something interesting, and something I could really see myself doing, so that is why I decided to join the program,” said Barbara Chavez, a sophomore at Americas High School. “It’s a great program I’m really enjoying, and I would definitely recommend it to other students.”
With the collaboration among EPCC and SISD, students have access to industry resources and equipment, so that they can receive the hands-on training to be fully prepared for the workforce and post-secondary education.
“This is a testament to the philosophy that at SISD that our kids are our priority and we’re going to help them be successful, so that they can become tomorrow’s leaders,” Hinojos said. “It is just an awesome program and opportunity.”