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Hope for the future
St. Mary School students paint tiles to create Peace Wall
By M.J. Porter | Daily Herald Staff

Lindsey Fitch, a second-grader at St. Mary School in West Chicago, paints her tile illustrating what peace means to her.


Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Thomas Matejka Crome, a second-grader, carefully paints his peace tile.


Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Peace tiles will be part of a peace wall that will be displayed at the school, church and West Chicago's Railroad Days.


Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/19/2008 12:14 AM

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The words "peace" and "hope" were exactly what Gail West-Hooper of West Chicago had in mind for students at St. Mary School in West Chicago.

As the volunteer fine arts chair at the elementary school, along with artist Kathleen Santoro of West Chicago, the two spearheaded a project they hope will spread positive thoughts in their community.

About 162 students in preschool through eighth grade from West Chicago, Carol Stream, St. Charles, Bartlett and other communities created tiles with their vision of peace.

"I came up with the idea for a project using art about 10 years ago," West-Hooper said. "My boys are teens now. And the peace theme was a combination of what's happening in the world, and people feel so helpless and there's so much violence."

West-Hooper said she had seen where one person could make a difference, recalling a girl who began selling AIDS T-shirts that's become a success. Another project she cited was the Global Alliance for Africa, which aids orphans.

"These ideas meshed for me a year ago with a way to teach kids that they have some ability to change this world and become peacemakers in our community and give people hope," she said.

The vision of the Peace Wall was created. To prepare students for their day of painting tiles, she sent a letter home asking parents and students to design four squares as possible prototypes for their tile.

Some designs came as rainbows or the peace symbol. One was a fish. When she asked the student why a fish, he said it made him feel peaceful to watch fish in water.

The tiles will be mounted on a three-tier screen with hinges to make it movable. It will be displayed during a ceremony at the school, as well as the church and West Chicago's Railroad Days.

"The idea is to get people talking and thinking," West-Hooper said.

She considers the project a real success.

"The kids really got it," she said. "An eighth-grade boy's tile says 'hope.' I'm so proud of them."