NIAGARA FALLS – Niagara Catholic is marking its 40th anniversary and making a push to boost enrollment.
Under its recently launched campaign, “Welcome to the Family,” Niagara County’s only Catholic junior-senior high school announced it is looking to engage alumni and prospective students in churning up more interest in the school.
The campaign, which will include social media and radio advertising, email blasts, direct mail and other marketing efforts, also will feature an open house next Sunday. The campaign also will include lawn signs, visits to local public schools, contests for referrals by the student body and other giveaways.
Enrollment peaked at Niagara Catholic in the 1990s. The number of students at the school has been “holding steady” in recent years, but is not where officials would like it to be, said Trustee Daniel J. DiPofi.
School officials are hoping over the next two years to grow from current enrollment of 206 to 250 or 300 in grades 7 through 12 over the next two years.
“It’s a struggle, to be honest with you,” DiPofi said. “I’d like to think that it’s the fact that people don’t know as much about Niagara Catholic and what we’re about. I think it’s probably not inconsistent with what’s going on in other markets, as well.”
DiPofi, a 1980 graduate of the school, said he sees what the school offers as “an alternative to public education,” though he was quick to note that he’s not disparaging public education in the least. He said he always had a private education and understands the benefits it has given him in his life.
“The problem with holding steady is, we didn’t start at a great spot, so holding steady is not achieving what we’re trying to achieve,” said DiPofi, former executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Buffalo Sabres. “We put a lot of work into maintaining what we have. We have the capacity to grow without drastically changing our model.”
The model for the coed, college preparatory school includes an average class size of 17 students. Last year’s graduating class consisted of 40 students, and the entirety of that class was college-bound, the school said.
Niagara Catholic partners on academic programs with Niagara University and offers college credit in a variety of areas, including hospitality and tourism.
Though the school has “Catholic” in its name, students of all faiths are invited to attend. DiPofi said he sees the school as more of a “faith-based” learning than as “Catholic education,” per se.
Last year, about 40 percent of students enrolled at the school were not Catholic, he said.
At the moment, the school draws mostly from the Niagara Falls area, as well as Grand Island and Lewiston, but school leaders say they’re looking to reach more people in Niagara County, as well as Erie County, DiPofi said.
He said Niagara Catholic also deals with the perception that a private school is unaffordable for some families. The school does offer scholarships and tuition assistance, DiPofi said.
“We work with families based on their needs,” he said.
The entrance and scholarship exam will be given Nov. 21.
The school, located on 66th Street, opened in 1975 and formed from Madonna, St. Mary’s and Bishop Duffy high schools.
Prospective students and their parents are invited to the open house, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Sunday. Guests will be able to tour the school, speak with teachers and administrators and get information about various offerings, including curriculum and the electives available to students.