Academic Warriors

by Allison Bruning

Allison Bruning
Allison Bruning

My name is Allison Bruning. I am Appalachian Scot-Irish and German from Marion, Ohio. I am also a second-generation American on my dad’s side. His parents were immigrants from Germany at the turn of the 20th century. My dad was a deep-sea diver in the Navy during World War II and Korea. He dove for Jacques Cousteau and was a stunt diver on the Old Sea Hunt series as well as an oil rig diver in the Gulf of Mexico. My grandmother’s side of the family is from West Virginia. Her grandmother was one of the first female RNs in West Virginia. My mother’s father’s side of the family was Scottish, who fought in the American Revolutionary War and were given land in Ohio after the war as part of their pension. We are descended from one of the first families to settle in Central Ohio!

My mom and I moved to Texas when I was sixteen while I was a foreign exchange student in Costa Rica. I went to college at Sul Ross State University, where I trained to become an archaeologist. To this day, I have been on five archaeological digs and one paleontological dig.  I specialize in geology and Native American studies. I hold a BA in Theatre Arts directing stage, screen, and television and a minor in Archeology. I was working on my master’s in history in Native American studies when I met my husband. We were married in 2001. He is truly the reason that I am the teacher that I am today. He saw me teaching a Sunday School class then asked me, “Why are you an archeologist? You’re such a great teacher. That’s what you should be doing, teaching!” A few years later, I left my studies and went back to school at Sul Ross State University to get a teaching certificate and my master’s of education as a Reading Specialist. I had thought of opening my own clinic so I could help special needs students. I became a certified teacher but was unable to complete my MEd because my husband and I had moved to Louisville, Kentucky. It was there I started my writing career. Today I am a bestselling author with three novels, ten short stories, a children’s book, and a poetry book. It was also in Kentucky that I had decided to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. I graduated with my degree in the fall of 2013. I thought I would stop there. I couldn’t transfer my teaching certificate from Texas to Kentucky. Still, I could teach writing at the college level with an MFA. So I had applied at several places. I eventually landed a teaching job at a university in Indianapolis, Indiana. We moved there, but I really missed teaching children.

My best friend at the time had convinced me to go to get my Ph.D. in Education. I had loved that idea because after working so long in education in the public and private sectors, I realized that special needs students just aren’t getting the right services because general education teachers aren’t taught how to personalize the teaching methods that would help them. I’m autistic, gifted (IQ is 140), and I have dyscalculia (math learning disability). Not a single teacher ever had addressed my autism nor my high IQ, only my learning disability when I was in school. I soon learned from other people I spoke with that I wasn’t alone. So I decided to do something about it. I was going to get my Ph.D. in Special Education and change the system from the inside. I started my research for my dissertation. My topic was autism identification and education within the school system. I learned that half of the autistic population commit suicide before they are 18 because they don’t have the necessary support system to help them become adults. Half of the remaining half are incarcerated, do drugs, alcohol, or engage in risky behavior in their 20’s. And the older the population grows, the more we lose them. I couldn’t believe my results, so I showed my husband, who had been a correctional nurse in Texas and Kentucky. He said he had encountered it every day he worked within the units. I was so upset that I told my husband we couldn’t let this continue! So I quit my Ph.D. studies and opened Academic Warriors in 2015. We started the school in Marfa, Texas. We didn’t have any business loan to help us out. We decided to full-time RV so we could meet with parents from all over the United States and let them know about our school.

Academic Warriors offers personalized online classes that are delivered live via Zoom. We have been using Zoom for five years. We don’t just offer online classes, though. One of the main problems I found when I started my writing career was that even though I had had wonderful writing classes throughout my education, they never truly prepared me for a writing career. Many publishers have to teach writers what a writing career is really like. There are publishers who take advantage of new writers. I believe students who want a career should have the necessary skills for that job. So I opened my own publishing house, placed it underneath the school, and developed a Young Authors program. Our Young Authors Program teaches students how to properly write short stories, novels, and children’s books. Then we publish the students. The students have to work with a real editor, graphic designer, and formatter in our publishing house just like they be would in the real world. I also developed a nonfiction writing program for students who are interested in becoming reporters or researchers. During the summers, we have an Arts in the Parks program where we work with state, local federal parks, museums, zoos, and aquariums to host a writing program that teaches students the creative writing process. The students create short stories then we professionally publish their stories in an anthology. The students can also have writing contracts with us for any other book they want published. You see the program on our website at www.academicwarriors.com.

Allison Bruning and her husband, Delfin Espinosa
Allison Bruning and her husband, Delfin Espinosa

I have basically built our entire company on my own. I am a graphic designer, so I have built a website and social media marketing. I am currently building two more websites for our school. I attended SBA conferences so I could gather the resources I would need to build the school. My husband is on disability because he is legally blind. We have used his funds to help with the school in the beginning. I also taught at Outschool while I was building the company. I told many of the parents I was working with over there that I was going to open Academic Warriors and leave Outschool. They ended up leaving with me. Three years ago, one of my parents in Arizona introduced me to the Arizona ESA (Empowerment Scholarship Account) program. We have been working with that program ever since and have received ESA state funding for many students we have worked with over the years. My husband and I have traveled all over Texas and New Mexico. We are currently in Fort Smith, Arkansas hoping more parents and educators will learn about our company.

My husband, Delfin Espinosa, is Mexican American and Apache Native American from Marfa, Texas. He is a third-generation American and a native of Texas. Delfin was an LPN for twenty years in nursing homes and prisons before he went legally blind due to end-stage glaucoma. He is currently in school to become a health and life coach. My husband is a very positive man who has been a great help to me. He loves helping people.

We are looking forward to expanding our services to include his health and life coaching.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to have the PPP. We had applied when the first and second rounds of PPP had opened but were told we didn’t meet the requirements. I was so upset because our school had been adversely affected by COVID. 2020 was such a weird year for our school. So many parents had been suffering financially that we offered discounts to many of our parents in order to keep their children within our student population. Our teachers were affected as well. When schools didn’t open in August, we had gained many students. We had been doing well until November and December. Many parents started to have financial issues, or some of the schools decided to reopen. So many of our new students left our school. That left a financial burden upon us that had made it difficult to pay our teachers. I also had encountered some health issues that had left me in the ER three times, an ambulance twice, and several visits to different specialists. Our finances were so bad that I had no choice but to let all of our teachers go. It was a really hard time for my husband and me. I had even wondered if I was going to have to close the school. I didn’t want to do that. Thankfully, Tamara at the SBA had emailed me on March 1st to let me know that Congress had changed the PPP requirements and that I might be qualify. I was overjoyed! She told me about your organization. I couldn’t get to the paperwork until last week because my schedule is swamped with students. Last week was Spring Break, so I had the time to fill out the paperwork. I was over the moon excited when you told me that I had qualified and was approved! The funds are going to allow me the opportunity to pay the teachers I couldn’t pay, replace the computer with one I need more for our business, and help with operating expenses.

ACADEMIC WARRIORS IS GOING TO LIVE!

Follow Academic Warriors on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or browse more of Allison’s written works on Amazon.