Imago Dei Middle School

Eighth graders Mavi Leos and Clementine Otuin check in on their radishes at the Imago Dei Middle School garden. They are a part of the innovations class and are launching a business to sell tajín pickling spices, soup mixes and many more items made from products in their garden.

The eighth-grade class at Imago Dei Middle School downtown had a crazy idea for their entrepreneurship class: pickle fruits and vegetables with a tajín spice blend.

“My favorite thing was citrus, which is crazy because I’ve never had pickled fruit before,” said Cameron Taylor, Imago Dei’s head of school. “It was delicious.”

The project was part of the school’s THREAD (Together for Hope, Resilience, Empowerment And Development) Project, a business development venture that the school created during COVID. Projects have included making 16,000 masks for healthcare workers, tribal members and others in the early days of the pandemic.

The class is taught by Frank DiPietrapaul, who went through the StartUp Tucson Recipes for Success Food Accelerator program this fall to help his students take their tajín project to market.

“Frank’s job was to take what he learned in the accelerator and translate that for the kids,” Taylor said.

Rev. Susan Anderson-Smith, co-founder and spiritual leader of Imago Dei Middle School, calls out gratitude during the class breakfast in Imago Dei’s cafeteria. The breakfast included food made with their own homemade ingredients and toppings.

Taylor said the kids came up with the product and the business, THREAD Provisions, but couldn’t participate in the StartUp Tucson program because they were too young — and classes were held on school nights.

The product is a spice blend that consumers can mix with vinegar. Taylor said the students also proposed selling bottled pickled vegetables and fruits, as well.

The next step is to decide how to bring it to market, but Taylor said he’s confident the kids will figure it out.

“I think it is a real possibility” that it will land on store shelves, he said.

Students in Imago Dei’s THREAD program have used proceeds from their projects to reinvest in their communities including community gardens, Taylor said.


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Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com. On Twitter @Starburch