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Peace Academy bringing nurturing hearts to fill preschool needs in Fargo

The nonprofit preschool, which is designed for 3- to 5-year-olds, is expected to open on Sept. 8. “We believe if you can sing it, dance it or play it, kids will learn it," Executive Director Jana Bruhschwein says.

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The Peace Academy building at 3201 Fiechtner Drive in south Fargo, is pictured Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. The new preschool, aimed at 3- to 5-year-olds, will open Sept. 8.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — The Fargo-Moorhead area needs preschools and Jana Bruhschwein is up for the challenge.

The founder and executive director of the Peace Academy , a new preschool preparing to open in the city’s center, is working nonstop to get the nonprofit’s building retrofitted to serve scores of 3- to 5-year-olds starting Sept. 8.

“To be honest, starting a new business is (moving) a million miles an hour with my hair on fire all the time. It’s kind of you live, eat and breathe it, but it’s really exciting,” Bruhschwein said Monday, Aug. 1. “Our community is in such dire need of quality early childhood experiences for children. I know that people with experience need to step up to meet that need in our community. And I have the experience and the desire to do it.”

Peace Academy, 3201 Fiechtner Drive S., already has about 160 children signed up. They’ll be guided through their days by a staff that is already 17 strong.

The building has three preschool classrooms and one child-care room, plus an outdoor play space. Two-, three- or five-day programs are offered, with morning or afternoon options.

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Bruhschwein said classes will have about 22 children in them, and Peace Academy offers screening for vision or speech issues, and to determine if children have occupational or physical therapy needs. Families with children who have special needs can then be directed to resources available at public schools or other agencies, she said.

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Average wages for child care workers have risen in recent years but decreased from $11.61 to $11.19 an hour from 2020 to 2021, said Zach Packineau, director of outreach and programming for ND Voices Network.

Learning at Peace Academy is play-based and guided by the Nurtured Heart Approach, which focuses on building character and developing social and emotional skills, such as being able to interact with peers, taking directions from adults, and navigating transitions in the day.

“We believe if you can sing it, dance it or play it, kids will learn it. That’s one of the things that is important about the Nurtured Heart Approach. In order for children to learn, they must feel safe. We need to be in their thinking brains, and that occurs in an environment where they have responsive adults,” Bruhschwein said.

Bruhschwein has spent more than 30 years in education. She started teaching first grade in Minot, N.D., then taught second grade at Fargo’s Centennial Elementary School. In summers, she directed a Head Start program in Hillsboro, N.D., for children of migrant workers. The last 14 years she directed St. John Christian Preschool in Fargo.

An important aspect of Peace Academy is the ambassador program, she said.

Each classroom has an ambassador - an adult with a developmental disability - who attends the preschool between one and three hours a week with a direct-support professional.

It’s “a beautiful program” that is an opportunity for young children to learn about people of differing abilities, Bruhschwein said.

“I think we can change the world when we can help 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds know what is right about the person in front of them, rather than look for our differences,” she said.

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The community has also been generous in helping to get Peace Academy off the ground, she said. The preschool received a $100,000 donation from the Scheels All-Sports Foundation, and entrepreneur Gary Tharaldson has committed $100,000 over the next four years.

Bruhschwein said several preschools have closed in the area since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that the shortfall in preschool programs has left parents struggling to find a program for their child, and we are looking forward to helping fill that need in our community,” she said.

For more information, email peaceacademyfargo@gmail.com or visit www.peaceacademynd.org .

Related Topics: FARGOEDUCATIONMINOTCENTENNIAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOLON THE MINDS OF MOMS
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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