Archbishop Charles Chaput hosted an in-person and virtual town hall meeting with student representatives from the 17 archdiocesan Catholic high schools March 8 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Philadelphia.

New marketing initiatives to help drive enrollment were announced, including a “See Our Schools” event that will be held at all the high schools Thursday, March 22 through Sunday, March 25. Computer labs and kiosks will be set up to accept registrations through a new, centralized online registration web site that is launching on Monday, March 12 at www.AOPregister.com.

The students were given the opportunity to ask the Archbishop questions and also express why they love their school.

Kyle Techtmann, a junior from Conwell-Egan High School in Fairless Hills, tells the eighth graders he speaks with that at Conwell-Egan “there’s a family environment where everyone knows each other and gets along with each other.”

He emphasized that many of the clubs at the school are run by students, which helps them develop leadership skills.

Joining him was Tori Wilcox, also a junior at Conwell-Egan, who added, “It’s the greatest place to go to school. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. I can’t say enough good things about the school.”

During the town hall, the Archbishop encouraged the students to consider becoming Catholic school teachers or entering religious life to teach in Catholic schools.

Erin, a junior at St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls, said she loves her school because of the “people in the school who make it what it is -‑ our administration, our faculty and our staff, especially the students, my classmates. Our school pride, our enthusiasm and the profound respect we have for each other on a day-to-day basis are what make me proud to be a Bambi.”

Connected to the town hall via Skype, an online video communications tool, Anthony from Neumann-Goretti High School asked the Archbishop where he sees Catholic education 10 years from now.

“Ten years from now,” the Archbishop said, “you may be married and you may have a family and you’ll be in a position to send your children to Catholic schools. It would be very good if this next generation of alumni and alumnae of our schools are enthusiastic about it and send their own families to Catholic schools. It will all depend on you.”

He then joked by telling Anthony: “You may be a rich man by then and you may be able to support one of the schools by yourself.”

Also participating via Skype was Rayanne from Archbishop Prendergast High School. She related a story about participating in a talent show at the school.

“In my sophomore year, I did the talent show for the first time, I was extremely nervous,” she said. “One of my friends handed me a poster that she had the entire class sign and it said, ‘Good luck Rayanne. Kill it on stage.’ It was the most amazing feeling that everyone was really rooting for me.”

Donna Farrell, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and moderator for the meeting, said the Faith in the Future Foundation will be offering 1,000 grants of $1,000 each for incoming freshmen. “That’s $1 million in new grant money,” she said. “That’s a very exciting initiative.”

Other incentives include offering one student at each high school the opportunity to win a $5,000 tuition grant for referring the most new students to register for the 2012-2013 school year. The student who refers the most new students across all high schools will win a $25,000 tuition grant.

In addition, the foundation has created a new microsite, www.MyAOPSchool.com that will give high school students the opportunity to share their love for their school through photos on Twitter.