50 Years: Michael Smith - From 8th Grade Traveler to General Manager
Michael Smith, now General Manager and Senior Vice President for WorldStrides Capstone programs, was just a kid when he first learned about the company with which he would later work. His primary school had partnered for WorldStrides (then Lakeland Tours) for a trip to Washington, D.C., for nearly 20 years.
“The 8th grade trip was a ‘rite-of-passage’,” he recalls. “I learned about it because my older brother got to do it.”
In 1990, he got his chance to go, too. Even today, he remembers every detail. “You met at the school at 7PM. I remember going to Sam’s Club and loading up with all the sugary snacks I could get my parents to buy,” he says. “We played euchre on the bus. Nobody slept. We watched movies all the way there.”
He fondly recalls visiting the memorials and watching his classmates lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Of course, boys being boys, not all of the memories are ones he’s proud of today – but they left an indelible impression!
“I had hurt myself playing soccer and I was in a leg cast. I remember my two good friends pushed me in a wheelchair up the hill at Arlington Cemetery. On the way down, they hopped on the back at probably 20 miles an hour. Not very respectful,” he says, with a smile.
Years later, Michael was working for a major bank on mergers and acquisitions when he once again encountered WorldStrides during a business deal. Shortly after the deal was done, Michael began exploring a transition in his life. “I wanted to be part of something that I could be passionate about, day-to-day,” he says.
He came on board at WorldStrides as the head of a business analysis unit, and has served in various roles in the company in the decade since. He even had the chance to travel with his old school when they visited Washington on that annual trip in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Since 2011, Michael has led the WorldStrides Capstone division, focused on short-term programs for higher education.
Today, his travels take him all over the world. He’s visited five continents, but his middle school experience is still with him. “I’ve found that educational travel is important at all ages and stages of your life,” he says, “and I’m still learning.”