Special to The Explorer

Tortolita Middle School students who operate their own small business are giving a $1,500 check to Casa de los Ninos for its parent education program this Thursday, March 4.

Sixteen students in the seventh and eighth grades created the small business, The Salsa Project.

"Inspired by writing their favorite salsa recipes, students decided to make and sell salsa," said teacher Kathleen Neighbors.

The business was funded through a $2,000 Marana Foundation for Educational Excellence mini-grant. In The Salsa Project, students grew a garden, harvested the vegetables, made the salsa, sold it and donated time outside of the school day. During the 2009-'10 school year, sales of Salsa del Cougar raised $750.

With a desire to give back to the community, students collaborated with Youth in Philanthropy and Every Voice in Action to learn about grants, identify a cause, write a request for proposal, and select a grant recipient. With matching funds from Youth in Philanthropy and Every Voice in Action, they're presenting $1,500 to Casa del Los Ninos.

"It is a wonderful feeling for the students to give back to the community and we are delighted to award the grant money to the parent education program at Casa de los Ninos," Neighbors said.

The Salsa Project will continue, providing students the opportunity to identify a cause they would like to support, research the agencies that support the cause, and send out requests for proposal.

"Due to the generous grant from the Marana Foundation for Educational Excellence and donation from Youth in Philanthropy, we have all of the supplies we need to continue our production of Salsa del Cougar," Neighbors said.

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