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Students with special needs maintain working hydroponic and solar-fueled garden at Plant High School

TAMPA, Fla. — Martin Ramirez loves to get his hands dirty.

“This is all about teamwork,” says Martin, as he checks a pepper plant for bugs. “That’s the best part!”

The Plant High School junior is taking part in an innovative program at the Tampa school that’s introducing students with special needs to possible career paths.

It’s a working garden right in the middle of campus. It features both ground and hydroponic plantings, and utilizes solar and renewable energy sources.

“The whole point of having this garden is to give these kids some hands-on experience that will hopefully translate to the workforce,” says Jessica Strauss, the Plant High teacher behind the successful program.

Local nonprofit Tampa Urban Benefits (TUB) Farms is partnering with the school to introduce the students to such varied career paths as gardening, farming, botany, finance, technology and community enrichment.

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