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Fort Walton Beach High School hosts inaugural ‘Viking Voyage’ career day with 78 local businesses

Fort Walton Beach High School hosted its first annual Viking Voyage Career Fair on Friday, bringing together 78 local businesses and organizations to introduce students to career opportunities in the […]

Fort Walton Beach High School hosted its first annual Viking Voyage Career Fair on Friday, bringing together 78 local businesses and organizations to introduce students to career opportunities in the community.

The event, held from 9 a.m. to noon in the school gymnasium, aimed to connect students with potential employers and give them insight into jobs and fields they may not have previously considered. 

  • It marked an expansion of the school’s existing career week programming, which already had students working on resumes and taking career interest inventories leading up to the fair.

“For Viking Voyage, we work collaboratively with all the stakeholders in our community to bring the jobs and the opportunities to the students because once they graduate, they are either going to a four-year college or directly into the workforce,” said Dr. Linda Dugan, a professional school counselor at Fort Walton Beach High School. “It introduces them to the different fields that they’ve never seen or heard of in our community.”

Vendors at the Career Day represented a wide range of industries and employers, hailing from across the region between Niceville and Navarre.

Fort Walton Beach High School said the broad spectrum of options reflected their goal of showing students the multitude of opportunities open to them, whether they choose to pursue a four-year college degree, vocational training or immediately enter the workforce after graduation.

  • “The goal here is so that our community can meet our kids. These are the students they’re going to hire,” said Lindsey Smith, Fort Walton Beach High School Principal. “We need these community businesses and organizations to meet them, to know them and to tell them what they need them to do so that they can be ready to be in the workforce in our community.”

Both Dugan and Smith said they were struck by the level of energy and engagement evident throughout the career fair. Students actively interacted with vendors at booths around the gym rather than idling along the perimeter, asking questions about what steps they would need to take to prepare for specific careers and industries.

“That’s what it’s all about, putting them face to face,” Dugan said. “In the beginning, one of our counselors provided the teachers with an interest-inventory at the beginning of the week. And every day we were doing career-interest things to get them excited about the opportunity today.”

School leaders also emphasized the importance of showing students that they can find fulfilling careers without leaving the local community, supporting Superintendent Marcus Chambers’ focus on developing a strong local workforce. Smith noted that over 30% of the faculty at Fort Walton Beach High School are themselves alumni, evidence that homegrown talent can plant professional roots close to where they grew up.

  • “We want to keep the talent here. We are a family,” Smith said. “And when you’re looking at the community around us, why not home-grow your talent?”

Several of the vendors present were also products of the Okaloosa County School District, with many being alumni of the high school. Many highlighted how their own paths led them back to the area after pursuing higher education and early career opportunities elsewhere.

Whitney Smith, an attorney at Fleet, Smith & Freeman in Shalimar, emphasized having an open mind about career trajectories, noting that her route to becoming an attorney was nonlinear and somewhat unexpected. She encouraged students to consider options apart from the traditional pathways they may have in mind.

“I had several students ask about law school this morning,” Smith said. “I think bringing awareness to different career fields is important. You might think attorneys go to court every day. I hardly ever go to court. We deal with something totally different [in my practice].”

As a small business owner, Smith also discussed the importance of community events like the career fair in helping match students with eventual job opportunities. She said the level of turnout and engagement was a positive sign for employers like herself who may be vying to bring aboard local talent down the line.

  • “We’re local business owners and all three of the attorneys in my office all grew up here. A lot of our staff grew up here and so it’s just part of giving back and being involved,” Smith said.

Other vendors remarked on the full-circle nature of returning to their old high school to provide career advice, noting how special it felt to potentially inspire students the way they themselves were once inspired within the same halls and classrooms.

“A ‘homecoming’ is always exciting,” Principal Smith said in reference to the many alumni business owners participating. “The other side of that is to let our kids see successful people that came out of these halls. They walk these halls every day and I think sometimes they forget what’s next. We have to be talking about what’s next and for them to actually see it and talk to people who were in their same spot is so powerful.”

Fort Walton Beach High School leaders said the inaugural Viking Voyage Career Fair represented a first step in what they hope will become an annual tradition.

  • Both Dugan and Smith mentioned conversations already underway about how to grow the event in 2025, from inviting more businesses to opening it up to students from nearby middle and elementary schools.

“We’ve already talked about who else we can invite. We’ve already talked about how we could grow it,” Smith said. “I know you can feel the energy in this room, but I think everyone’s excited. I’ve been talking with kids as they walk out of the gym as I’ve been very interested to know how they feel. They are on fire about our community, and you can’t ask for anything better.”

One Response

  1. Amazing article!!! Jared Williams is an incredible writer and this article captures the incredible things happening in our community! Thank you Jared!
    Linda Dugan

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Community Comments

“Would like to know this as well.”
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“This is Awesome/ Thank You for Your Service Reuse an Recycle”
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“Carolyn, there is two of them this year, the one at the fairgrounds is still on the 27th”
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“I thought this was scheduled for April 27th at Fair grounds in FWB.”
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“Is there a limit on the amount?”
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“Couldn’t the tennis courts be used for Pickle Ball Courts?”
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“How come we haven't heard about any charges or anything about the person who hit this lady ?”
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“Stayed at the Calypso resort last week. Overran with immaturity. Teens were throwing beer bottles from the balcony and dog shit while kids were swimming in the pools below.”
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