View From The Mount-Academics

Mount St. Dominic Academy Hosts Inaugural L.E.O. Program Pinning Ceremony

On Thursday, November 21, 2019, Mount St. Dominic Academy, welcomed the inaugural cohort of 17 students into the L.E.O. Program with a Pinning Ceremony in the Doris M. Byrne Performing Arts Center. 

Chosen in early 2019 by the Leonidas Foundation, the Mount is just the second school to be offering the innovative program as part of our curriculum, joining Don Bosco Prep – the L.E.O. Program’s pioneer school. A two-year intensive to be taught by MSDA faculty, business experts and professional entrepreneurs, the course covers the full lifecycle of creating a business or product from ideation to launch, with the tenets of “leadership, entrepreneurship and opportunity” at the foundation of the program.

Sister Frances Sullivan, OP ’60, Head of School, opened the ceremony with a blessing for the students, followed by Kristen Zosche, MSDA Director of Curriculum and Instruction, who thanked the Leonidas Foundation “for the opportunity to help our young women envision themselves as future leaders and entrepreneurs.” Ms. Zosche continued, “It is an exciting time for our school, as we evolve our programs and live out our commitment to empowering young women. They truly are the change-makers of tomorrow, in medicine, in social justice, and, as is especially evident tonight, in business.”

Alex Cucciniello, vice president of the Leonidas Foundation, Theodore Vagias, Foundation trustee, and later in the program L.E.O. cohort Katerina Holevas '2021, warmly remembered Leonidas Vagias, who passed away in 2016 and in whose memory the Leonidas Foundation was created. Each noted elements of Leo’s character like putting others before self, commitment, determination, and deep faith, which drive the Foundation’s core principles of mind, body and spirit.

Mount alumnae Jessica Iacullo ’13, CEO and Founder of Hungry Grl Big City, LLC, delivered the keynote address in which she reflected on her journey from the Mount to starting her successful social media marketing consultancy. In contemplating the end of this decade, Ms. Iacullo noted: 

“Starting this decade at the Mount and now ending it back at the Mount at age 24, and being able to say that I am now an entrepreneur, it is such a transparent thing to say that you don’t always have to have an end goal or a five year plan, though those help get to the goals that you want to achieve. No one will work for you - it’s the work that you put in over time that will get you to where you want to be. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you believe it will happen, and you work really hard to make it happen both inside the classroom and outside the classroom.” 

The Mount students were then presented with their Leonidas Foundation pin by Mrs. Frances Vagias P'18 and Sister Fran, officially inducting the members of the inaugural Mount St. Dominic Academy cohort of the L.E.O. Program. 

Dr. Marissa Muoio '08, Dean of Academics and lead teacher of the L.E.O. Program at the Mount, concluded the program with a reflection on opportunities; “It is critical that we as educators at Mount St. Dominic Academy provide you with the tools, skills and confidence to find your voice and your seat at the boardroom table.” She continued, “As leaders and decision-makers, you are key to achieving the systemic transformation that will build a world that is grounded in fairness, justice and equity. I encourage you along this path to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to you, to speak to everyone to learn about their paths, and learn how their paths can influence yours.”

A reception followed in the Bishops' Dining Room where family, friends, faculty and staff, continued the celebration of the young women, and wished them well as they prepare to embark on their two-year L.E.O. Program journey.

Mount St. Dominic Academy Inaugural L.E.O. Program Cohort – Class of 2021

Catherine Browne, Short Hills
Brynn Caufield, Caldwell
Elizabeth Conti, Caldwell
Candice Davila, Bloomfield
Hema Devalla, West Orange
Theodora Exilus, Orange
Patty Ann Forsythe, Rutherford
Sophia Garske, Wayne
Kaitlyn Hladik, West Caldwell
Katerina Holevas, Fairfield
Ava Lukowiak, Belleville
Elisabeth Prioletti, Essex Fells
Julia Rodano, North Caldwell
Renee Schuldiner, Verona
Isabel Taffet-Isaza, Cedar Grove
Lia Tortoriello, Verona
Isabella Vescera, East Hanover

More information about the L.E.O. Program can be found here

Photos by John Paul Endress