The Leonidas Foundation announces partnership with Mount Saint Dominic Academy to establish second “L.E.O. Program” curriculum
Caldwell, NJ – The Leonidas Foundation is proud to announce that it will be establishing its second “L.E.O. Program” business curriculum at Mount Saint Dominic Academy in Caldwell, NJ. This will be the first private girls high school to offer the L.E.O. Program, which stands for “Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Opportunity.”
Approximately 15 students annually will be selected by a panel of Board members based on a comprehensive application process, complete with a professional resume and extensive interviewing. The program has attained a strong footing at Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Ramsey, NJ, where it was introduced in 2017. Leonidas “Leo” Vagias, the program’s namesake, was a Don Bosco alumnus. His sister, Alexandra, is an alumna of Mount Saint Dominic and his cousin, Katerina Holevas, is currently a sophomore student.
The prospect of this new program has garnered a welcome reception at Mount Saint Dominic. A vast majority of the current sophomore class has expressed serious interest in applying for placement in the program.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for young women to meet with successful entrepreneurs and executives to help them become future business leaders,” said Matthew Perricone, President of The Leonidas Foundation. “We are beyond excited to bring this program to Mount Saint Dominic Academy and thank the administration of the school for being eager partners throughout the launch process.”
The significance of the program’s name represents the focal three tenets of its curriculum: leadership, entrepreneurship, and opportunity. Intensive classroom instruction on a wide range of business topics is enhanced by interactive panel discussions with current business and government leaders. The participating students will have the opportunity to attend the L.E.O. Program’s Summer Leadership at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. as well as other off-site learning experiences.
Marissa Muoio, the Dean of Admissions and a 2008 graduate of the school, and Kristen Zosche, the school’s Director of Curriculum, offered the following joint statement: "We are thrilled to partner with the Leonidas Foundation to bring the LEO Program to Mount St. Dominic Academy. The core tenets of the program - leadership, entrepreneurship, and opportunity - resonate with the Mount's continued dedication to innovation within our curriculum."
For more information about The Leonidas Foundation and The L.E.O. program, please visit www.LeoUniteUs.com.
The Leonidas Foundation Announces Third Recipient of “Leader of the Year” Award: L.E.O. Program Inaugural Cohort
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ~ Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Contact: Matt Perricone, 973.615.3501, LeonidasFoundation@gmail.com
Ramsey, NJ ~ The Leonidas Foundation is proud to announce the third recipient of its annual “Leader of the Year” Award. The Foundation’s Executive Board has determined that this year’s award will be given to the 22 young men comprising the inaugural cohort of The L.E.O. Program business education track at Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Ramsey, NJ.
“Once again, we have selected an award recipient truly embodying our Foundation’s core principles of mind, body, and spirit,” said Matthew Perricone, President of The Leonidas Foundation. “The first cohort of L.E.O. Program students have worked with us to establish this entity and solidify the foundation for Leo’s favorite subject to continue to be taught to Don Bosco Prep students for years to come.”
“These young Ironmen are the first to complete this innovative and intensive business education program,” said Alex Cucciniello, the Foundation’s Vice President. “They possess the potential and preparedness to make their mark as entrepreneurs moving forward.”
The award will be presented to these exceptional student leaders at the third annual Leonidas Foundation Kickoff Event, to be held on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at The Waterside Restaurant in North Bergen, NJ.
“My family and I are so proud of these young entrepreneurs,” said Trustee Teddy Vagias, Leo’s father, on behalf of his wife Frances and daughter Alexandra. “Their commitment to scholarship and philanthropy is commendable and I can think of no better way to recognize these future masters of industry than to have them receive this award.”
The L.E.O. Program is a two semester curriculum that cultivates students’ business acumen using an interactive instructional approach. Under the direction of Professor John Esposito, students explore business principles with a focus on the core values of Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Opportunity. The curriculum spans students’ junior and senior years, with nearly 60 sophomores applying annually and approximately twenty-five rising juniors being selected. Typical classroom instruction is supplemented with guest lecturers from the business world and a Summer Leadership Conference at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. featuring high level government officials and corporate executives.
“It is with great humility the utmost appreciation that our students accept this Leader of the Year award,” said Professor Esposito. “This program has evolved into something truly embodying Leo Vagias’ lifelong interest in business, imparting knowledge and wisdom on the leaders of tomorrow. We will display this award in our classroom with pride as a constant reminder of Leo’s influence on the young men of our program.”
For more information about The Leonidas Foundation – including ticket and event information for the upcoming Kickoff Cocktail Party event – please visit www.LeoUniteUs.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 18, 2019
Contact: Matthew Perricone, President - 973-615-3501 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ramsey, NJ - Chris Riccobono - the founder, Chairman, and CEO of clothing start-up UNTUCKit - was the most recent guest speaker to the students in the L.E.O. Program business track at Don Bosco Preparatory High School. Mr. Riccobono, himself a Don Bosco Prep alumnus, spoke to the twenty-five juniors about his road from growing up in Bergen County, NJ to running his own multinational clothing company. This February 8, 2019 event was part of the L.E.O. Program’s interactive business education curriculum focusing on leadership, entrepreneurship, and opportunity.
Mr. Riccobono spoke of his uncertainty about his future career path during his time at Providence College, although he knew he wanted to own his own business eventually. He found a job that allowed him the flexibility to start his own business while fulfilling his current responsibilities, encouraging the LEO students not to worry about finding the perfect job, but to ensure they find employment to fulfill their financial obligations while charting their own course.
While balancing his work at GE Healthcare with running his own wine blog “Pardon That Vine,” Mr. Riccobono enrolled at Columbia Business School and earned his Master of Business Administration degree through their Executive Education program. His wine blog provided an in-depth learning experience about social media and e-commerce. All the while, he continuously thought of ideas for a business of his own.
Mr. Riccobono found his passion when he came up with a solution to the problem of untucked dress shirts looking sloppy as the world shifted towards a more business casual approach - an issue he personally experienced. He launched UNTUCKit in 2011 with only $100,000 in start-up capital. Mr. Riccobono created a story to establish the brand, differentiating the everyday use of his product with the conceptual idea: this business solves a problem all men face. He knew there would be a market for UNTUCKit since it was an issue he himself had experienced.
UNTUCKit was profitable in each of its first three years in business, a rare feat for a start-up operation. The company did not have a physical office or staff until year 5, at which time it started giving out equity at a high valuation. UNTUCKit opened its first physical store location in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood in 2015 and has been expanding internationally, offering its products to a wide demographic (men aged 18-75 years) with its US brand ambassador, Super Bowl champion QB Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
Mr. Riccobono capitulated his presentation by highlighting the need to find a plan that can evolve as life does, maintaining a career while developing one’s own business ideas, and always creating a story. He stressed the critical importance of digital marketing and suggested that inclined students consider working in data at a start-up. He reminded the young men that family always comes first, but to be confident and always find a way to attain their goals.
“Mr. Riccobono’s story features lessons that can inspire our students as they proceed through this program,” said Professor John Esposito, the L.E.O. Program’s teacher. “His unrelenting drive, persistent work ethic, and focused approach to growing and developing his business should serve as a model for all young entrepreneurs.”
The Leonidas Foundation’s President, Matthew Perricone, offered the following statement: “The Leonidas Foundation and the L.E.O. Program are proud of Mr. Riccobono’s incredible accomplishments. We thank him for taking the time from his busy schedule to impart his wisdom, experience, and prowess on our young entrepreneurs who will be working on creating their own start-up ideas as they move through this program.”
For more information on The Leonidas Foundation and The L.E.O. Program, please visit www.LeoUniteUs.com.
In its first "Shark Tank"-like competition, Don Bosco Preparatory students came up with creative business ideas, including a country-wide EZ-pass system and Simplex, a simple way for businesses to schedule and communicate.
The Leonidas Foundation awarded $10,000 in scholarships to the high school in Ramsey, as part of the L.E.O. Program's first "Ironworks" Entrepreneurship Competition.
Twenty-two L.E.O. Program seniors took part in a team-style competition similar to the popular television show, Shark Tank. Students were tasked with creating a new business idea to solve a common problem, formulate comprehensive marketing and substantive information about the product, and present their creations to a panel of investors from the financial, legal, automotive, banking and medical industries dubbed “Sharks.”
The ideas included:
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The Leonidas Foundation awards $10,000.00 in collegiate scholarships to L.E.O. Program seniors in “Ironworks” Entrepreneurship Competition
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Monday, February 11, 2019
Contact: Matthew Perricone, President (973-615-3501 / email@example.com)
Ramsey, NJ – The Leonidas Foundation is proud to announce that it has awarded $10,000.00 in collegiate scholarships as part of The L.E.O. Program’s first “Ironworks” Entrepreneurship Competition at Don Bosco Preparatory High School this evening.
The twenty-two senior students in the L.E.O. Program’s inaugural cohort at Don Bosco Prep competed in a team-style competition similar to the popular television show, Shark Tank. Students were tasked with creating a new business idea that solves a common problem, formulating comprehensive marketing and substantive information about the product, and presenting their creations to a panel of real-life investors, known as “Sharks,” including leaders from the financial, legal, automotive, banking, and medical industries.
The products presented by the students and considered by the “Sharks” included:
The winning business idea selected by the “Sharks” was Simplex, whose team received $7,500.00 in scholarships. The runner-up was Ameripass, whose team members were awarded $2,500.00 scholarships. The audience also selected a “Most Socially Responsible” project, which was Critter Care and garnered $100.00 scholarships for each team member.
“Watching these students take ideas from the brainstorming phase all the way to tonight’s investor presentations was an impressive and fulfilling process,” said Professor John Esposito, the L.E.O. Program’s teacher. “The students have utilized countless aspects of the course curriculum in these presentations and we are very proud of the final products of their hard work.”
“The Leonidas Foundation is honored to present these scholarship monies as part of the inaugural ‘Ironworks’ event,” said President Matthew Perricone. “As the first cohort of the L.E.O. Program at Don Bosco Prep, these students have set the bar high for the years to come. We are all very proud of their accomplishments and wish them great prosperity as they transition into the next chapter of their lives.”
The Leonidas Foundation was formed in 2016 following the passing of Don Bosco Preparatory alumnus Leonidas “Leo” Vagias, an avid business enthusiast who expressed his desire to be an entrepreneur from an early age.
“These projects are not only the finished products of a year’s worth of education, but they are all viable businesses with the capacity to positively impact the real world,” said Teddy Vagias, Leo’s father, on behalf of the Vagias family. “This is what drove Leo in his passion for business, and it is incredible to see that same passion embodied among these young men this evening and every day moving forward.”
For more information about The Leonidas Foundation, please visit www.LeoUniteUs.org.
L.E.O. Program Students Represent Don Bosco Prep & The Leonidas Foundation In D.C. At Summer Leadership Conference
Tuesday, July 3, 2018 ~ Contact Matt Perricone, President: firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C. ~ The L.E.O. Program students of Don Bosco Preparatory High School attended a extraordinary summer learning program in Washington, D.C. from Sunday, June 24 – Friday, June 29, 2018.
The first annual "L.E.O. Program Summer Leadership Conference," hosted by The Leonidas Foundation in conjunction with Mason Harriman Group and The Catholic University of America, was a rousing success. Accompanied by Matthew Perricone, President of The Leonidas Foundation, John Esposito, LEO Program Director, and Teddy Vagias, Leo's father, seventeen young individuals traveled from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. to Washington, D.C. for this multi-faceted experience.
L.E.O. students arrived at Don Bosco Prep campus at 5:30am on Sunday morning, travelling from there to Newark Penn Station, where they boarded an Amtrak train bound for Washington’s Union Station. Upon their arrival in our Nation's Capital, the students immediately commenced their learning experience at Mason Harriman Group's corporate headquarters. There, they were addressed by eighteen current and former executives from different levels and departments of the federal government in a series of interactive sessions. Topics discussed by the speakers included academic and career advice, anecdotes about their own paths to their current roles in the government, and experiences within the world of business and public service.
Panelists included Secretary, and C-level executives from over 15 departments in the federal government. The departments they represented included, Departments of Interior, Treasury, Homeland Security, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, and all 5 branches of our military, including one admiral and a general. The panelists’ breadth of experience and expertise allowed for L.E.O. students to gain an understanding of our government and its workings.
The L.E.O. Program ambassadors then spent the next six days attending the Busch School Summer Business Institute at The Catholic University of America. This entrepreneur-focused summer institution provided a wide array of offerings to enrich the mind, body and spirit of the young scholars who attended, focusing on the core values of the L.E.O. Program: Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Opportunity; all while working to create entrepreneurs with a social conscience.
"This was truly an incredible experience for everyone involved," said Perricone. "The amount of learning and mentoring that took place this week was not just inspiring for our L.E.O. program students, but for the presenters, speakers, and educators as well. Our L.E.O. students came to Washington looking to learn more about our federal government and its intersection with business and entrepreneurship. They left Washington understanding that, and much more."
The L.E.O. Program was established at Don Bosco Prep in 2017 as a one-of-a-kind business education experience. The Leonidas Foundation established a $100,000 endowment at Don Bosco Prep to commence the Program's activities in 2017, showing its commitment to promoting academic excellence and an interactive business learning experience for the young individuals selected to participate.
For more information on The Leonidas Foundation, including upcoming events, background, and information on how to become involved, please visit their website at www.LeoUniteUs.org or e-mail email@example.com.
Entering its second year, the Leonidas Foundation remains determined to keep the spirit of athletic competitiveness and entrepreneurship alive. In other words, the spirit of Leo Vagias.
The former Don Bosco Prep/University of Rhode Island place kicker was killed in a car accident along with classmate and close friend Sam Cali in June of 2016. The Leonidas Foundation was created in honor of the student-athlete from Montville with many goals in mind.
Chief among them has been the start of the LEO (Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Opportunity) Program at Don Bosco Prep. This is a business-centric curriculum for a select group of students at the school.
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To mark the organization’s anniversary, the Foundation will host a Kickoff party at The Waterside Restaurant in North Bergen on Thursday, April 19.
“We don’t want to stop what we’re doing,” foundation president Matt Perricone said. “We want to continue with what we are doing, especially the positive impacts that the program has had in a relatively short time.”
At the dinner, the organization will honor the entire Murray family with its Leadership Award. Patrick Murray was a standout kicker for Don Bosco Prep and Fordham and is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Murray appeared in 12 games for the Bucs finishing 19 of 23 on field goals in 2017. Leo’s name is one of four that Patrick puts on a piece of tape on his wrist before every game.
Patrick’s brother Aidan kicked and punted at Don Bosco before playing for Rutgers. The boys father, also Aidan, has coached kickers and punters at Don Bosco for over a decade and Linda Murray works at the school.
“They just embody with our foundation is all about,” Leo’s father Teddy Vagias said last week. “We want to work on the mind, body and spirit and all four of them work with the minds, making you feel good about what you can achieve, they work with the spirit and keeping brotherhood in the mix. They are just awesome, and we love the number four, because it was Leo’s number.”
Perricone was also a special teams ace for the Ironmen and retains a deep connection to the Murray family. The younger Aidan Murray was Perricone’s and Leo Vagias’ “Ironman for a Day” partner when they were looking at the school, and he served as a mentor for the two of them at Don Bosco.
“What’s better than honoring an entire family where every single member has touched Leo’s life and so many other young people in a long period of time,” Perricone said. “It’s just the perfect fit.”
The winner of the Leadership Award last year was former Don Bosco Prep football coach Greg Toal.
Vagias said one of the key principles of the foundation is the idea of paying it forward for students and athletes. In business, this means networking and helping the next person in line advance. In that vein, the organization is considering creating a college scholarship opportunity for a high school student who starts as a walk-on.
“That’s one of the things that got Leo fired up,” Teddy Vagias said. “The concept of a walk-on was important to him. A player can earn a scholarship his sophomore year or junior year, but that first year, he will know someone believes in me.”
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While the program is deeply connected to its athletic roots (there was also a Sam Cali Invitational wrestling tournament in the winter), it’s easy to see the enthusiasm Vagias and Perricone have for the business program. Perricone said that the organization is in discussions with expanding the academic program at a handful of other schools in North Jersey.
“The LEO program has been a real success for our young men at Don Bosco Prep,” Don Bosco athletic director Brian McAleer said. “It’s been a great way of keeping Leo’s memory alive, while offering a new and unique academic experience for the students.”
Teddy Vagias sees a day where high school entrepreneurs are recruited just as much as talented athletes.
“What we want is colleges to line up at the doors of Don Bosco or other high schools and say I understand you have young entrepreneurs and we want to recruit them for our business school,” said Vagias.
For more information on the Leonidas Foundation and the Kickoff party, go to www.leouniteus.org
Wyckoff, NJ ~ The Leonidas Foundation is proud to announce the second recipient of its annual “Leader of the Year” Award. For the first time, the award will be given to a family – Aidan, Linda, Patrick, and Aidan Murray of Mahwah, NJ.
“This year’s selection truly embodies the principles of mind, body, and spirit that are at the core of our mission,” said Matthew Perricone, President of The Leonidas Foundation. “Each member of the Murray family had a deep personal impact on Leo’s life and helped to cultivate his own development as a young man.”
The award will be presented to Aidan, Linda, Patrick, and Aidan Murray at the second annual Leonidas Foundation Kickoff Event, to be held on Thursday, April 19, 2018 at The Waterside Restaurant in North Bergen, NJ.
Family patriarch Aidan Murray was born in County Monaghan, Ireland, where he grew up playing Gaelic football and soccer while honing his kicking skills. It was not until after he immigrated to the United States that he focused his skills and knowledge on American football, especially as his two sons entered middle and high school. Mr. Murray has coached kickers and punters at Don Bosco Prep for the past thirteen years and had a profound impact on Leo during their time together. Mr. Murray’s admiration for Leo’s work ethic and determination was critical in developing Leo into a college-level kicker.
Linda Murray enjoyed a career in publishing before returning to earn her teaching certification and has taught British Literature to students with learning needs at Don Bosco Prep since 2004. As one of Leo’s teachers, she remembers him as a diligent worker who embodied the Salesian charism. She took great pride in watching Leo and his fellow students have a breakthrough after struggling with a concept, and still enjoys these to this day.
Patrick Murray currently stars as a kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League and served as a role model and inspiration for Leo in his own athletic pursuits. Patrick attended Don Bosco Prep and took on an active role as an alumnus to support Leo and his fellow Ironmen after graduation. Patrick continued his education at Fordham University, where he was a consensus all-American and made it to the NFL where he continues to play. Leo’s is one of four names Patrick writes on a piece of tape placed around his wrist before every game.
Aidan Murray handed the kicking and punting duties at Don Bosco Prep over to Leo when he graduated in 2012 prior to becoming a kicker at Rutgers University. He remembers the long practices working with Leo, pushing each other to perfect their craft. After serving as a mentor to Leo and spending four years as a member of the Scarlet Knights football program, Aidan graduated from Rutgers and now works in the HVAC industry.
Said Perricone of the honorees, “From Mrs. Murray’s role in working with Leo’s mind, to the Murray men’s impact on his athletic body of work, to the entire family’s generous spirit, I can think of no one more deserving to receive this award in 2018.”
For more information about The Leonidas Foundation – including ticket and event information for the upcoming Kickoff Cocktail Party event – please visit their website at www.LeoUniteUs.org.
The First Leonidas Vagias Memorial Golf Classic was a great success! Leo gave us a beautiful day to play golf as over 100 golfers took the course.
We’d like to thank everyone who supported this event!
Autonomous vehicles are a polarizing topic. Most Americans have a passing awareness and are quick to offer opinions on whether self-driving vehicles are good or bad. Polls consistently show most are cynical and unwilling to give up the wheel to a computer. Until June 19, 2016 I was just like everyone else. That’s the day my 19-year old son, Leo and his best friend Sam were killed in a car crash.
They were driving near our home in Mahwah, New Jersey when they veered off the road into a wooded area. The boys hadn’t been drinking or doing drugs and in a moment, two lives ended and our lives were changed forever. I know that if they’d been in a self-driving car, both young men would still be alive.
Leo and Sam had been best friends since elementary school and both were standout athletes. Leo was a freshman kicker on the University of Rhode Island’s football team and Sam was a wrestler at Rutgers. They were about to head back to school for their sophomore year when they died.
The pain of such an unexpected loss is unimaginable and I can assure you, it doesn’t go away. Multiply that experience by the 40,000 people who died in traffic crashes last year. Imagine the families, relatives and friends who were impacted, and you’ll understand why I’ve become such a passionate advocate for self-driving and connected vehicles.
We need to have this conversation continuously. Next month, I will be speaking at INTERSECT17, a gathering of transportation leaders in Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s the kind of critical talk we must embrace rather than run from. These conversations aren’t just about the latest technology — they are about saving lives.
While accidents involving autonomous vehicles may cause panic the fear is unwarranted. When a Florida man died using Tesla’s Autopilot, headlines asked whether the path to autonomy was worth it. The National Transportation Safety Board later issued a report indicating the driver was using Autopilot beyond its capability and ignored safety warnings.
Here’s the good news. Last month in a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives recognized the importance of advancing self-driving vehicles by passing the “SELF DRIVE” Act, and the Senate has its own version of autonomous vehicle legislation that it will take up in the coming weeks. Both bills can help expand autonomous vehicle testing and provide clarity for federal oversight — where to date, there has only been a patchwork of state regulations. This is just the beginning, but Congress must act now to help make autonomous vehicles a reality.
There will be many obstacles in the path to full adoption. Before we get to completely autonomous vehicles, we must look at the regulatory and monetary needs of our state governments and infrastructure concerning connected vehicle capabilities that will get us to a self-driving future. America’s car culture is also slow to change and there is a multi-billion-dollar economy built around traffic crashes.
Self-driving and connected vehicles are in their infancy, and the aviation industry suffered many setbacks early on, but few would argue that those setbacks outweigh the safety and convenience of the aviation system we now enjoy.
Since Leo and Sam died, I’ve made it my mission to increase awareness about the life-saving potential of self-driving and connected vehicles. Awareness is everything because throughout history, we’ve seen that when consumers demand something, barriers fall away. We are committed to educating politicians, leaders and all Americans about the life-saving potential of existing and developing vehicle technology and getting it out of the research labs, out of Washington, D.C. and onto America’s roads. It’s literally technology we can live with.
Theodore “Teddy” Vagias is an advocate for intelligent transportation systems that will save lives, specifically autonomous and connected vehicles. His personal goal is to reduce vehicle related deaths to zero. He is also a Trustee for The Leonidas Foundation, named in his son’s honor, which is a non-profit organization focused on public service and providing humanitarian relief. He currently serves as the CEO of the Mason Harriman Group that recruits, retains and places CxO level executives from the private, public and nonprofit sector for advisory, turnarounds, interim and permanent CxO level engagements.