CHICAGO — For Crystal Dyer, it’s about helping young kids see the world and dream big.

“Travel helps them see they can be anything they dream of,” said Dyer. “They can do it.”

Dyer is the founder of Chicago Austin Youth Travel Adventures—or CAYTA for short—a non-profit organization who sets up a variety of Chicago-area travel adventures with the occasional long distance trip for local youth to partake in.

One such trip was just finished where Dyer took four Austin-area middle school and high school students on a two-week trip to Ghana.

“Oh my goodness, it was just so emotional … being able to take four youth from the Austin community on this trip of a lifetime,” Dyer said. “To be able to help them see outside of the box, to see their future and to learn about their culture [by getting] on that flight, I actually got in my seat and cried.”

This is the organization’s second trip to Ghana, the first being held in 2018. Dyer was not able to attend that trip though because she lost her son, Christopher, in an accident on the same day the trip departed. Friday marked the four-year anniversary of his death. They launched CAYTA together in 2015 several years after Dyer’s 18-year old grandson was shot and killed in Chicago. 

“It was with [Christopher’s] help that I was able to get this organization off the ground,” Dyer said. “So to be on the plane and accomplish this a second time … it’s more than just a trip.”

Dyer said that CAYTA is fundraising to do another Ghana trip next year, with the organization hosting the Ghana-Again Festival on Sept. 10 at Austin Town Hall Park. For more information on the festival, visit CAYTA’s website.