“Imago Dei” is all about image, in the best way. The after-school program for middle school students aims to use art to reinforce the idea that all of them are indeed made in the image of God. It came about through the efforts of Father Tom Boharic, assigned to St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish as a newly ordained priest in July 2012. After introducing himself around the predominantly Latino parish, he received a voice mail from parishioner Lisette Lopez. She wasn’t very happy with what the parish was doing for young people, or to respond to the violence in the Little Village neighborhood. What she had to say resonated with Boharic. “I’ve always felt like we need to do more on the issue of violence and the issue of kids who join gangs,” he said. So he, Lopez and other parishioners began to look at what other groups were doing so as not to duplicate efforts. “They said what was needed was something for the younger, middle school age. We wanted to focus on the junior high age, to find the kids who are at risk, who might be going to make that decision to join a gang,” Boharic said. “We wanted to focus on mentoring and on the arts at the same time.” The group, in cooperation with existing community organization Enlace Chicago, started with students referred by their schools, primarily Little Village Academy, Rosario Castellanos Elementary School, a couple of other public schools and St. Agnes of Bohemia’s parish school. The program is one of this year’s CCHD grant recipients. Students come from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and have guest speakers, field trips, time for sports and other activities. There is always a meal, and often the students help prepare the food. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they come from 6-9 p.m., have a meal and work on art projects. Through the four weekends of October, they are painting murals at sites throughout the community, in cooperation with CeaseFire, which had already planned a mural project. One of the group’s mentors, Carlos Terrazo, is an accomplished graffitistyle muralist. The sites that will receive the murals are all in high-graffiti areas, Boharic said, and the property owners were happy to take the opportunity to have positive images on their walls. “It really wasn’t hard to get people to agree to it,” Boharic said. At the end of the month, an affiliated parish parents’ group, Padres Angeles de la Villita, plans to lead a Dia de los Muertes procession and vigil to the murals, praying for an end to violence, Boharic said.