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LI teen girls learn about running a business, personal finance and more in Valley Stream 

Mahisa Persaud, 14, of Elmont, and Alberta Proto,

Mahisa Persaud, 14, of Elmont, and Alberta Proto, 12, and Morgan Charles, 12, both of Valley Stream, at a business development workshop of the Sparkle Girls Empowerment Program in Valley Stream. Credit: Newsday / Beth Whitehouse

A dozen teen girls imagined businesses from a gluten-free bakery to a surf shop during the second year of the Sparkle Empowerment Program for Girls in Valley Stream.

The business development workshop was just one of the sessions in the weeklong, full-day program meant to empower girls in seventh through 12th grades. Other topics included girls and friendships, how to handle money and personal finances, and the importance of community service. The girls spent one afternoon helping at a local food pantry.

The summer program, which is held the first week in August at Valley Stream Presbyterian Church, is nondenominational, costs $275 and is an offshoot of a school-year program of the same name that meets twice a month.

“The summer program was a dream of mine,” says Kimberly Thomas, who runs the Sparkle program. “When I as in high school and middle school, I felt like I had low self-esteem. I needed extra guidance to navigate that period in my life. I needed mentors.”

Thomas brings in speakers such as Renee Vitullo, a personal finance consultant from Valley Stream who ran a session called “How to Start Life With Your $ Right.”

“I like the programs because they’re educational,” says Alexis Desuze, 13, a rising eighth-grader from Valley Stream. “And I like meeting new people.”

Mahisa Persaud, 14, a rising ninth-grader from Elmont, says she loves hearing how the speakers became successful. She says she especially liked the criminal justice speaker. “One of her jobs, she taught criminal justice at a college. She was a hostage negotiator,” Persaud says.

For more information about the program, visit

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