The time-honored tradition of a school fundraiser certainly has its place at Pusch Ridge. However, the school’s sixth-graders eschew candy bar or holiday wrapping paper sales.

Instead, the crew harvests prickly pears each fall, and their parents spend hours in the school kitchen cooking them down into jelly. The jars make for pretty popular holiday gifts, too.

In the last seven years that the Pusch Ridge sixth-graders have been marketing the stuff, they have sold 8,000 jars of prickly pear jelly and raised an estimated $35,000, according to teacher Devonne Bishop, who helps lead the effort.

“It did really well the first time,” Bishop said.

Seven years ago, the school’s sixth-grade students met in another building. They would trek daily back and forth for various activities. A student of hers noticed the ruby-red prickly pears along the way and suggested they do something to harvest them. An idea was hatched, and the rest, they say, is history.

“We’ve had an awesome crop,” Bishop said of this year’s prickly pear harvest. “This is probably the best we’ve ever had.”

Students harvested 50 to 60 buckets this fall, the teacher said. The work yielded about “35 buckets of good fruit.”

After it was sent off for processing, parents set about making the jelly, a delicate process at times. But if the pears fail to gel, then the students simply bottle the syrup, which makes for a sweet addition to many recipes and iced tea.

The resulting products sell like hotcakes.

And, this year the crew has manned a booth at the Oro Valley Farmers Market on Saturdays.

The point of the enterprise is to help finance the sixth-graders’ trip in March to the Grand Canyon.

“Every year has always beaten the year before,” Bishop said of the fundraiser. “Now, it’s a little like a competition.”

Operation Prickly Pear

WHAT: Sixth-graders at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy sell prickly pear jelly and syrup to raise money for a class retreat

WHERE: In addition to selling the goods at the school, students will man a booth at the Oro Valley Farmers Market, at La Cañada and Naranja drives, on  Saturdays, Nov. 15, Dec. 6 and Dec. 13.

COST: Jars cost $5 each or $55 for a dozen

CONTACT: 797-0107

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