By Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Archdiocesean Catholic high schools have not only found a new footing, one school - designated to close - has a new name.
In this Eyewitness News exclusive, Pat Ciarrocchi reports that with donations and determination, freshman class size is outpacing upperclassmen.
West Catholic -- 2012. Students rallying cry was to keep this struggling school open.
Twelve months later -- "Z'" is a senior. Morgan, a freshman.
"I was really excited when they said they were going to open it again," freshman Morgan Kennedy said.
"Junior and senior year are really important and I really didn't know what to do. To be able to come back to West is a blessing," senior Zhiyang Lin said.
This freshman class at the re-named West Catholic Preparatory High School is telling a story many didn't think could be written.
"There were 55 freshmen that enrolled last year and this year. There are 130 children who are in the freshman class. It's almost 300 percent growth in one year," Casey Carter of Faith in the Future Foundation said.
The announced closing of West and St. Hubert's in the city, plus Bonner-Prendergast in Delaware County and Conwell-Egan in Bucks County became a catalyst to find students, raise money - and there's progress.
"Giving is up 40 percent this year and resulted in $14.5 million in giving from the alumni alone in the last year," Carter said.
Across the system the 17 freshman classes show a three percent growth.
Carter says tuition assistance is helping as is an investment in instructional technology.
Chris Mominey, the new Secretary of Education, came from Syracuse to set right the Catholic educational ship.
"In terms of sustaining this first year bump, we have to continue to message to our communities one, that we are here to stay, two, that there is a return on investment, and three, we are the church's best apostolate for passing on the traditions of our faith," Mominey said.
It's a story they hope will change young lives for the better.
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