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Ground Breaks on New Childcare Center and Launches Great Starts

$200,000 SPACE Grant to support the new Brown Bear Excel Academy; Office of Early Childhood and BPS launching Great Starts, an online platform to find and enroll in childcare.


Mayor Michelle Wu, Office of Economic Opportunity & Inclusion, Boston Public Schools, and the Office of Early Childhood celebrated the ceremonial ground breaking of a new child care center in Mattapan, funded by the City of Boston’s SPACE Grant program. With this funding from the SPACE Grant, childcare provider and entrepreneur Dawne Brown is able to open a second childcare location – Brown Bear Excel Academy – which will serve 33 children ages 3 to 5 in Mattapan. The center will also employ 15 staff.

In addition to celebrating the expansion of child care in Mattapan, the Mayor also announced a new one-stop shop to find and enroll in childcare across the City of Boston. The new online portal, Great Starts, provides information on more than 800 providers in Boston who serve young children ages birth to five. Great Starts is designed to offer families a streamlined, simplified dashboard of all childcare options. 

“We can’t wait to see this space filled with children who are playing, laughing and learning. This is one of the parts of the city where we have been working so hard to make sure that there’s much needed childcare that is affordable and available to residents,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “This has been my dream since I was pregnant with my first child. As of today, the City of Boston has launched a new online portal called Great Starts, so now there is a one-stop shop to find childcare anywhere in the city for your kids.”

Brown Bear Excel Academy will be located on land leased from the MBTA and developed by Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH)/Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation as a transit-oriented community. The existing building contains 135 affordable rental apartments and had a grand opening last year. Adding a childcare center to the neighborhood will enhance the quality of life for those who live nearby and provide a highly desired amenity. 

“The SPACE Grant program represents one example of how Mayor Wu is making Boston a more vibrant, family-friendly, enjoyable place to live,” said Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Segun Idowu. “Brown Bear Excel Academy is an excellent addition to the Mattapan community and will provide a valuable service to all. This grant not only supports entrepreneurs like Dawne by helping them expand their business, but also maintains or creates jobs that build opportunities for economic mobility.”

“Thank you to the City of Boston for helping us expand essential childcare services,” said Dawne Brown, owner of Brown Bear Excel Academy. “We are excited to offer well rounded education and enrichment activities with a focus on STEAM to our Mattapan neighborhood.

With the newly launched Great Starts portal, families can explore options based on the criteria that is important for their family, including the size of the program, whether it is a home environment or a classroom, and the hours of operation. It also serves as an enrollment platform for families participating in the City-run Universal Pre-Kindergarten program. Great Starts is unique because it combines in one place information from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Boston Public Schools, Boston’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program, and providers themselves.

Finding the right care can be confusing and frustrating. Great Starts allows parents to identify the setting that best meets the needs of their individual child as well as their family,” said Kristin McSwain, Director of the Office of Early Childhood. “Together with the City’s investment in new centers, family childcare, universal pre-kindergarten, and Connect, Learn, Explore, Boston is working to holistically support families with young children.” 

The Office of Early Childhood is committed to expanding access to high-quality early education and childcare programs, investing in Boston’s early education and care workforce, and serving as a central point-of-entry for residents looking for information on early education and childcare programming and wraparound services for young children and their families. An important part of the Office’s work is the Mayor’s Connect, Learn, Explore: Boston’s Commitment to Youth, to make Boston a family-friendly city where every child has the resources to thrive. 

Brown Bear Excel Academy was awarded City of Boston funding during the first round of the SPACE Grant program, among 23 other small businesses. Three of these businesses were childcare providers looking to expand their home childcares into childcare centers. The program is designed as an effort to bring more foot traffic into major commercial districts, revitalize Boston’s downtown, bring vibrancy to city neighborhoods, and close the racial wealth gap. In addition to awarding businesses grants to open their new premises, the City also provides each business with wrap-around services to assist grantees with lease negotiation, accounting, taxes, regulatory compliance, marketing, and employee-ownership to ensure long-term success. The City of Boston will announce the awardees of the second round of the SPACE Grant program in the coming weeks.

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