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Costa Mesa nonprofit prepares girls for the workforce with event at South Coast Plaza

High school girls received a crash course in workplace professionalism Wednesday during a training event organized by Girls Inc. of Orange County, a nonprofit that prepares girls for college and the workforce.

Eighty-five girls from throughout the county took part in seminars, asked questions and put together work-appropriate outfits at Macy’s South Coast Plaza.

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The event was part of a larger externship program that helps sophomores and juniors explore career options in various fields. Those who complete the program go on to work 20 hours a week with participating employers throughout July.

The morning began with the girls sitting through 20-minute seminars led by Macy’s personnel on interview etiquette, cosmetics and appropriate work attire.

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Following the seminars, event organizers surprised the girls with the news that they’d be able to pick out their own outfits at no cost. Then they wandered Macy’s with the store’s sales team, which helped them select business-appropriate outfits.

Lunch at Wolfgang Puck Kitchen followed.

Girls Inc. has partnered with Macy’s for 15 years. The training event is in its third year.

The externship program, which began with one girl when it started in 2010, has grown to 45 this year, said Lucy Santana, chief executive of Girls Inc. of Orange County.

Santana said about 80% of the girls in Girls Inc. will be the first in their families to graduate from high school.

One of them is Lesley Osorio, 17, of Aliso Viejo, who said the externship program has helped her learn the tenets of professionalism and gain confidence.

Osorio, who recently graduated from Aliso Niguel High School, will start at UC Irvine in the fall. She joined Girls Inc. her sophomore year.

“I didn’t know anything about college before this program,” Osorio said. “With it I learned everything, even how to just apply to school.”

Michelle Leduc, 17, of Foothill Ranch said Girls Inc. has helped prepare her for a future in filmmaking. An incoming senior at Trabuco Hills High School, Leduc said she’s ready to take on a male-dominated field.

Costa Mesa-based Girls Inc. of Orange County is an affiliate of the national Girls Inc. organization. The local group started in 1954, helping K-12 students “navigate gender, economic and social barriers and grow into healthy, educated and independent adults.”

Aside from the externship program, Girls Inc. hosts elementary school, teen, summer, college-bound and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. In 2017, the group served 4,000 girls.

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