SEBRING — Students looking to find out about careers got an extra feature with Thursday morning’s Career Fair: an expo on community service.

Deena Wright, executive director of the Mason G. Smoak Foundation and organizer of Youth Leadership Highlands, said she and Garrett Roberts, who organizes the Career Fair, combined their events into the Career and Community Service Fair.

She said 790 students came from local public high schools and dozens more came from local private schools to the Alan Jay Arena at the Highlands County Fairgrounds to ask about jobs and volunteer work.

Visiting students also got a ‘punch card’ for presenters to initial, Wright said. It gave an additional incentive for students to meet and network, and to qualify for giveaways from event sponsors.

Rebekah Burke and Hadley Hathaway, Youth Leadership ambassadors from Lake Placid High School, came to learn as much as they could to then pass information on to fellow students.

“We didn’t even know this was a thing,” Burke said of the expo. “We didn’t know there were so many volunteer opportunities.”

When asked about their career goals, Burke said she talked extensively with the local hospitals, because she wants to go into nursing. They also spoke at length with members of the Crime Scene Unit at the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office booth.

“That feels like an interesting topic,” Hadley said.

People looking for volunteers still have quite a need. Darren Whidden with the Clerk of Courts Office said Teen Court has 25 active volunteers, but many of his “attorneys” are graduating.

Ridge Area Arc representatives wanted to find volunteers but also work opportunities for their clients. Meanwhile, Casey Hartt with Visit Florida needed a volunteer database, a list to call when tourist events need helpers.

The afternoon was reserved specifically for adults seeking jobs. Remaining booths included Career Source Heartland, the Sheriff’s Office, South Florida State College, Sebring International Raceway, Everglades Seasoning, Nucor, local hospitals and Highlands County government offices.

“Employees are hard to find these days,” said County Commissioner Scott Kirouac, whose booth for Ag Angels, a Christmastime charity, sat next to the Highlands County Government booth. “There’s a huge competition for good dependable employees.”

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