CHICAGO – A West Side grandmother is exposing kids to a side of the city they’ve never seen before.
“A lot of these young kids, they’ve never been off the block, let alone think of going somewhere like that,” said Crystal Dyer of her field trips with at-risk youth.
The travel agent, who also owns a travel store, founded Chicago Austin Youth Travel Adventures or CAYTA six years ago.
“As a young kid I wanted to be an archeologist. I always joke, well travel agent, I guess it isn’t too far from that.”
Her mission began with the unexpected death of her grandson.
He was shot and killed at 18 in Chicago.
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She focused on how she could change the direction of the men who committed the crime.
Since travel altered her life, she knew it could have changed theirs as well.
She started simple, she says, loading neighborhood kids up in her car and taking them to cultural centers and sporting events.
Osheanna Tyler-Hudson just joined the group.
“I want to be a pilot, so I can travel around the world, so I can see new places,” said Tyler-Hudson of her newfound dream.
Imani Rhodes participated while she was in high school, now she volunteers.
“I’ve visited four different countries since joining CAYTA, I have my passport, I know how to book trips, cruises, travel is a big part of my life now,” she said.
For the majority of the excursions, Dyer has used her own money.
Then, a couple years ago, she got the idea to take a group of kids to Ghana, Africa.
She just wrapped up a second trip to the continent, with another group of kids last month.
“When you think you’ve got it bad, right, and then you go to a country where everybody looks like you, and you see they don’t see that they have it bad. They feel hope every day, working every day to make their lives better,” Dyer said of the people they met.
CATYA participants have gone on to law school, joined a trade union and received accomplished degrees.
“To see it in their eyes. And they say it, they say Miss Crystal we love you, without you, I don’t know where I would have went,” Dyer said.
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