Its location and programs make it accessible to many, but what makes the Nursery School at YWCA Princeton truly unique is how it cares for young children from every corner of the community.

The Princeton area is a melting pot, and that’s very evident at the YWCA. According to Director of Programs Tara O’Shea, the New Jersey state-licensed Nursery School at YWCA Princeton serves not only English-speaking families, but it also finds a way to serve all English learners, regardless of their country of origin.

“We recently graduated 20 children from our pre-K program,” she noted. “They represented a dozen countries and spoke six different languages. This is accomplished by teachers who not only love children and teaching, but also take part in year-long culturally diverse training programs.”

Director of Advocacy & Development Nancy Faherty notes many of the staff have been with the YWCA Princeton for many years, including O’Shea, who has been there 19 years, and Director of Early Childhood Education Michelle Trudeau, going on 15 years.

“Our nursery school’s success is backed by proven metrics,” Faherty said. “We use creative curriculum to make sure our students are well prepared for Kindergarten. Using toys, games, and interactive activities, this program includes teaching strategies with goals in key areas — social, emotional, physical and language, including cognitive, literacy, and mathematics — to provide a true picture of how ready a child is for Kindergarten.”

The YWCA Princeton offers childcare before and after nursery school to assist working parents, so it is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Within that day is a core curriculum broken down into different age groups: 2-1/2 to 3-year-olds (Tigers), 3-year-olds (Zebras), and 4-year-olds (Unicorns). Tigers speak their home language and start to learn English. Zebras learn through English immersion. Unicorns are children who have really started to master the language.

“Our students stay with one teacher the entire year, and that builds trust,” Trudeau explained. “Our teachers also work with the Princeton Regional Schools to assess — for free — any child where there might be a concern. This helps parents identify special needs early and to address those issues before Kindergarten.”

Parents new to speaking English or looking to improve their English may take part in the YWCA Princeton’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program located on-site. Almost 50 volunteers are available to coach and mentor parents so they can better communicate with teachers and participate with confidence in activities like parent-teacher associations.

Trudeau adds: “Choosing a nursery school is one of the most difficult — and important — decisions any parent will make. Our program is hands-on and child-driven and deeply rooted in research. What makes us different? Flexibility in scheduling. Parents choose the schedule that best suits their needs, and choice is empowerment.”

Interested parents are invited to attend an open house at YWCA Princeton on Tuesday, September 1, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nursery School at YWCA Princeton, 59 Paul Robeson Place, Princeton, 609-497-2100, ext. 325. See ad, page 18.

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