A local grandmother is turning her heartbreak into action, helping Chicago-area teens discover the world outside their neighborhood.
Crystal Dyer founded Chicago Austin Youth Travel Adventures in 2015, four years after her grandson was murdered in the Austin neighborhood when he was caught in the crossfire during an altercation at an apartment party.
“I’ve got to do something to help these kids,” said Dyer. “I have to help them get out of their heads; get off the block. I’ve had kids that graduated high school and have never seen the Chicago River.”
Dyer took her corporate travel knowledge and implemented a program where teens take cultural field trips throughout Chicago.
The program is 100% funded by donations and sponsorships. CAYTA includes educational mentoring, anti-violence techniques, job training, college and museums visits along with a recently launched aviation class.
But the most important trip is one that 15 participants are embarking on in August: a trip to Africa.
16-year-old Honey Harvison has never left the Midwest.
“You can see something other than violence. You can see love, peace [and] happiness,” said Harvison. “As an African-American, you don’t get chances like this. Especially where I’m from.”
16-year-old Destiny Bennett is excited to learn more about her roots.
“I get to learn more about where my ancestors came from, my culture [and] my heritage,” said Bennett.
Dyer has a goal of taking 180 kids to Ghana within the next two years. To do this, she needs to raise funds to keep the program alive.
Those looking to support Dyer’s mission or learn more about her program can visit the group's website.