Mount St. Dominic L.E.O. Program seniors pass the torch in moving ceremony

Mount St. Dominic L.E.O. Program seniors pass the torch in moving ceremony

Mount St. Dominic L.E.O. Program seniors pass the torch in moving ceremony

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The senior class of the Mount St. Dominic Academy L.E.O. Program marks the end of their two-year journey with ceremony on Thursday, May 2. The keynote speakers of the evening were Bloom Social Club Chief Executive Officer Lauren Garcia, middle left, and Miss N.J. Teen USA Julia Carrano, middle right.

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CALDWELL - The stage was set and the candles flickered as Mount St. Dominic Academy prepared to honor the senior class of the L.E.O. Program on Thursday, May 2.

The program is a two-year intensive available to juniors, through a rigorous application and interview process, which encompasses the full cycle of creating a business or product from ideation to launch and focuses on leadership, entrepreneurship and opportunities.

With L.E.O. Program Director and Theology Department Chair Christine Victori as the emcee, the evening was one of celebration and inspiration, showcasing the power of weaving education and mentorship together and the many achievements of this year's graduating class.

Victori was also joined by Rhonda Clarke, executive director of the Leonidas Foundation which oversees the program.

"Tonight, we celebrate the senior class of the L.E.O. Program who are passing the torch from their time at the Mount to the future that lies before them," Victori said.

Quoting St. Catherine of Siena, she encouraged the seniors to embrace their calling and ignite positive change in the world. She underscored the program's influence in guiding students towards their aspirations while fostering a commitment to service and innovation, expressed her deep pride in their growth and eagerly anticipated their future accomplishments.

Clarke expressed her deep connection to the senior class, who started with the program when she began working with the foundation. She expressed gratitude for the lessons she has learned from them and wished them all the best.

“Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young. You might be young, but you're all fierce –and the light is just blazing,” she said.

Encouraging Words

The keynote speakers of the evening were Lauren Garcia and Julia Carrano.

Garcia is the chief executive officer of Bloom Social Club, which was created as a women-focused network for enterprising women who are charting their own paths in business. It is a platform that gives entrepreneurs the ability to scale their business, gain access to the best resources, and join a community where they are truly valued.

Carrano was crowned Miss N.J. Teen USA last fall.

Garcia celebrated the fourth cohort of the L.E.O. Program and shared her journey as an entrepreneur and nurse.

She encouraged the graduates to embrace continuous growth and resilience, highlighting the importance of embracing failure as a steppingstone to success and surrounding oneself with a supportive community.

She said although the road ahead feels daunting, “in those moments, I want you to remember that you are stronger than you think, and you are capable of achieving anything you set your mind to.”

She also emphasized cultivating an abundance mindset, practicing gratitude, and never stopping learning and growing. She urged the graduates to go forward with courage and confidence, knowing the best is yet to come.

Carrano shared her personal journey of overcoming anxiety and depression, emphasizing the importance of seeking help and being true to oneself.

She spoke about her struggles in high school and college, where she faced challenges with her mental health. She highlighted the significance of being honest about one's struggles and reaching out to a support system.

She discussed her experiences with treatment and therapy, which helped her regain her strength and sense of self. Carrano also talked about her work as a crisis counselor and mental health advocate, using her voice to help others.

She encouraged the audience to embrace their uniqueness and remember that their challenges do not define them, but rather, how they deal with those challenges shapes who they are.

“One takeaway that I want you guys to get from my story is to always, always be true to who you are, always be the most authentic version of you and do not let anyone try to change you in any way,” she said.

Her story served as a reminder that everyone's journey is unique, and it's essential to stay true to oneself and not compare one's journey to others.

Subsequently, each member of the cohort was individually called up to receive a lit candle, symbolizing their personal journey and the brightness that lies ahead in their futures.

As the ceremony drew to a close, the glow of the candles illuminated not only the faces of the L.E.O. cohort, but also the path they had forged towards a brighter future. With the wisdom imparted by speakers like Garcia and Carrano, the students were reminded of their potential to effect change and overcome any obstacle.

As they embark on the next chapter of their lives, the candles serve as a symbol signifying carrying that light as a beacon of hope and inspiration, knowing that they have the knowledge, skills, and determination to make a difference in the world.

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