WorldStrides is celebrating 50 years as the leader in student travel by sharing the stories that have shaped our company’s past and will propel us into the future. Throughout the year, we will highlight stories from our history, many of the people who have made us what we are today, and some of the special ways travelers have been impacted by their experiences in our blog series, 50 Years of WorldStrides Stories.
Next month, Trish McGraw will begin her 38th year with WorldStrides. When she joined the company, then Lakeland Tours, in 1979, she was in charge of sales and marketing. In the early days, everyone pitched in where needed.
“Essentially, everyone was an account manager,” Trish says. “No matter what your job was, you handled accounts. I handled sales and marketing, but I also had accounts. If your job was buses, hotels, or guides, everyone still handled accounts. As the years went on, we realized if a person was going to be a really good account manager, they couldn’t also be in charge of a large operation, so we took the plunge and divided into departments – account management, operations, sales, finance, and marketing.”
Trish has touched nearly every department at WorldStrides. She moved into operations, then worked in account management for many years. She came back to sales for WorldStrides Discoveries programs, and is now a Vice President of Sales for WorldStrides OnStage programs.
Regardless of what role she’s played in the organization, a main focus for Trish has always been on the educator. “People go into teaching for a particular reason,” she says. “It’s their personality, their career, what they want to do with their lives. They want to impact students’ lives. They did not become business people or doctors or lawyers or dentists for a reason. Teaching is what they wanted to do. They wanted to educate children, dedicate their lives to impacting students. We’re offering them a tool to accomplish that. You’re impacting this person’s career.”
Trish views her time at WorldStrides as both an opportunity and a chance to grow. “People ask me all the time how can people stay with one company for years. When I look back over my career, I honestly feel like I’ve worked for three entities,” she says. “I went a decade as Lakeland and we were growing so rapidly. I learned everything from Tour Central, sales, ops, account management, everything.
“The second decade I learned a lot more about business and the industry,” she continues. “I was part of the first few investments. I learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t. That second decade I raised children and this company allowed me to do that. I will always be grateful to this company for allowing me to never have to make that choice. This third decade, we have really exploded. I feel like I am working for an organization growing at a very high level and expanding globally. Most people don’t get that opportunity in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Despite the changes the company has seen over its 50 years, one thing has stayed largely the same. “The reason I’m still here is because the day I started in ‘79, the core mission and the core values? They are exactly the same today.”
Learn more about WorldStrides OnStage Programs.