Girls learn skills to succeed in workplace

The girls paced around the room, double-checking the clothing rack and making sure their hair and makeup were just right.

Most had never been part of a real fashion show before.

"I'm a little nervous," said Deja Garza, 17.

She and a handful of classmates from New Horizons High in Pasco modeled casual and business outfits as part of a special event Wednesday aimed at empowering girls from the alternative school.

The girls were honored for their accomplishments during the academic year and were treated to lunch courtesy of P.F. Chang's restaurant. The event also included presentations from Tri-City businesswomen, lessons in networking and door prizes.

"I think it's awesome," said student Vanessa Ursua, 17, who helped organize the fashion show, which featured clothing the girls got from Goodwill Industries of the Columbia. The idea was to show students they could be fashionable without breaking the bank.

Gabriela Vargas, 20, modeled three outfits, including a black-and-white blouse and a skirt that cost a combined $3.75.

She beamed and struck a pose as she walked down the runway in a conference room at the Best Western Inn & Suites in Pasco, where the event was held.

New Horizons officials Michele Towne and Loretta Marston coordinated the event.

Towne teaches the school's program for teen parents, and Marston supervises an after-school program that includes tutoring and job skill training. The after-school program is paid for by a federal grant that is administered by Educational Service District 123 in Pasco.

It started this year and has served more than 70 students. Participants have learned everything from CPR to food-handling safety.

Marston said she hoped the girls were inspired by Wednesday's event to keep building skills that will help them succeed in the work force.

Towne said, "I want for the girls to hear a positive message about how they're special young women."

The girls aren't the only ones who'll be celebrated. A similar event for New Horizon's male students is planned before summer break.