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Area Road Scholars program ranked No. 1 in international organization

NATCHEZ — Last year, Natchez-based Educational Travel Associates Inc. programs were ranked No. 1 out of more than 250 international Road Scholar program providers.

Road Scholar program manager Andrew Godfrey said the non-profit Road Scholar — which is headquartered in Boston — is one of the largest educational travel organizations and provides 5,500 different weeklong university-level educational travel experiences for adults.

Of those 5,500 experiences, Educational Travel Associates Inc. president Carolyn Vance Smith said last year her company provided 10 different one-week programs in Natchez, two in Jackson and one in Vicksburg and was the top-ranked provider by program participants.

“Our programs are heavily Natchez,” Smith said. “… Altogether the three sites —Natchez, Vicksburg and Jackson ranked number one out of 5,500 programs offered globally. Road Scholar has programs in almost every country and primarily in North America. They also have moving programs on trains, rivers and hiking trips — all sorts of programs that are in a friendly competition to be the best they can be. …

“Our programs have ranked in the top 10 out of 5,500 programs before, but we’ve never been No. 1 until now. … I just cannot thank enough the staff that work with me, the speakers that work with me, the hotels, the restaurants and the people who just bend over backward to do hospitality with a capital ‘H.’ … We’re very happy, pleased and thankful to have just a wonderful coalition of people who are able to present Natchez at its best.”

Smith said approximately 200 Road Scholars toured Natchez last year and approximately 80% of Road Scholar participants evaluate their experience afterward.

The evaluations are processed digitally at the Road Scholar headquarters in Boston and the results were released a few weeks ago for 2019, Godfrey said.

“Amongst all of the programs that we have (Smith’s) were rated the best of the best with great quality,” Godfrey said. “That review doesn’t come from anyone other than our participants. Carolyn offers programs that are really solid in their educational content and tell a living history of the City of Natchez. The instructors that she has and the group leaders that she has touring the city with us are just second to none. Those are the things that stand out to me and our participants.”

Godfrey said Smith has worked with Road Scholar since 1989 and provides a six-day tour called Signature City-Natchez that beat similar city highlight tours around the country — including Charleston, Nashville and Memphis.

Godfrey said the Civil Rights program that Smith provides in Jackson is also proven to have great quality educational content.

“The educational content that she offers in Jackson is really the best of any of our other Civil Rights programs that we have,” Godfrey said.