Just in time for the holidays, the BORO Sugar Shack opens


New candy store to be staffed by Westborough post-high school transition students

Front (l to r): Arthurina Gebhardt, Gia Bellofatto, Caitlyn Kline, Mark Salib; Back (l to r): John Eagen, Emily Stark, Ethan Turner

By Ilyse Levine Kanji, Special Contributor

Westborough – It’s amazing what a community can accomplish when people come together.  After several years of planning, hard work and generous donations, the Westborough Public Schools (WPS) opened the BORO Sugar Shack Nov. 14  with a joyful ribbon cutting ceremony attended by state and local officials, more than 100 contributors, and most importantly, BORO staff, students and their families. The students were so excited to welcome the community into their new classroom space!

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Public schools must educate students with complex learning needs from the ages of 3-22. WPS’s major overhaul of its post-high school transition program began with the decision to move the program from inside Westborough High School to a new home.  After scouting several sites, WPS settled on a newly vacated property right off the Westborough rotary.  The BORO Program (Bridging Over to Right Opportunities) opened in the fall of 2017. Students in the BORO program follow individual paths, including attending local community colleges, performing volunteer and paid work in the community, and learning daily living skills such as travel training, budgeting, cooking, healthy living and stress release.

“In Westborough, the core value of our age 18-22 program is to successfully launch students into career, college, and work opportunities within their home community, where they have the best opportunities to thrive,”  Westborough Public School Superintendent Amber Bock said. “An essential component of the BORO Program and the BORO Sugar Shack learning lab is to provide robust educational development, as well as vocational-technical and life skills training in the center of Westborough.”

The final stage of the BORO program, the BORO Sugar Shack, is a candy and gift store that serves as an on-site learning lab for the students to learn job-related skills in a real business setting.  The store will sell a wide variety of candy, including some relatively “healthy” choices such as Unreal, a new candy backed by New England Patriots QB Tom Brady.  The BORO Sugar Shack also sells Westborough-themed items including mugs, shirts and pillows.

Looking at all the items on sale, Ruth Ann Kotosky, one of the ribbon-cutting attendees, remarked, “I’m excited to get all my stocking stuffers at the Sugar Shack this year.”

Truly, the best thing about the BORO Sugar Shack is the students who will be working there and who will be showcasing their skills and abilities, which too often society has overlooked.  At the ribbon cutting each student introduced him or herself verbally or with the help of assistive technology and explained what they were most excited to learn at the Sugar Shack.  Jobs included stocking shelves, monitoring inventory, operating the cash register, assembling gift bags and providing customer service.  Student Ali Leva received friendly laughter and cheers when she enthusiastically declared that she “can’t wait to assemble a gift bag for each and every person in Westborough.”

BORO students and the Program Coordinator, Emily Stark, wore matching red shirts with the logo “Be Sweet.”  Sherrie Stevens, Director of Student Services, noted that “Be Sweet” is the mantra of the BORO program.

“Now you can see what is sweet to us: the students in this program,” Stevens said.

The shirts are one of the many products also on sale at the Sugar Shack.
The BORO Sugar Shack is located at 15 E. Main St., Westborough, right off the rotary.  Hours of operation are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The store will soon have a website where people can make on-line purchases, including for large orders for celebrations like birthday parties or Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.  To learn more about the BORO Sugar Shack or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit  https://www.gofundme.com/boro-sugarshack-westboroughschools.

BORO students hand out free samples during the ribbon cutting.
Program Coordinator Emily Stark poses with BORO students Ethan Turner & Mark Salib inside the BORO Sugar Shack.
Attendees mingle and explore the BORO Sugar Shack after the ribbon cutting.
Students celebrate the grand opening of the Sugar Shack.