La Salle’s Early Achievement Program (LEAP) gives high school students the opportunity to take college courses before becoming a full-time undergraduate student.
For Gregg Ciocca, philanthropy is woven into the everyday fabric of his life.
The owner and founder of Ciocca Dealerships thinks business and giving back go hand in hand. This is what led to a gift from Ciocca to La Salle’s Early Achievement Program (LEAP).
“We’ve always believed in the principle of giving back and supporting causes that make a difference,” he said.
LEAP, one of several dual enrollment opportunities La Salle offers area students, enables 350-plus rising juniors and seniors attending one of the 15 LEAP partner high schools to take up to 10 courses over seven semesters earning up to 30 college credits.
Taught by La Salle faculty members, LEAP students enroll in one of three themed tracks: exploratory studies, health and human services, or science/business/technology.
Ciocca heard about the LEAP program through John Fries, ’66, and was struck by the positive impact it has on students.
“It resonated deeply with our family’s belief in education as a cornerstone for individual and community growth,” he said.
Ciocca started his business out of his mother’s garage at 17 years old when he purchased a car for $700. Looking to support his single mom and siblings, he fixed up the vehicle and sold it for almost double the purchase price—$1,350. Today, Ciocca owns 42 dealerships and 12 collision centers across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The company employs approximately 2,600 employees at its locations and brings in over $3 billion in annual sales.
Even throughout its growth, Ciocca has worked to maintain a family business feel. His three sons all hold positions across the company. His mom, known as Ginger Snap, was an inspirational figure throughout his life, and worked in the administrative office prior to her passing.
“It’s a family business that we have created,” he said. “And I do take on the responsibility of a family business converting to a business family. As a first-generation business owner, the 2,600 employees are important to me because they’re my extended family.”
Supporting others and providing educational opportunities are areas where Ciocca felt his work and the Lasallian mission intertwined. He hopes to make a positive impact on LEAP students through the program gift.
“LEAP relies on external funding, and gifts such as this one, provide an opportunity for local students to earn a whole year’s worth of college credits at no cost to them while also enabling them to develop the skills necessary for success—in college and in life,” Assistant Provost for Academic Support Teri Ceraso said.
“We hope to empower these young individuals to pursue their dreams with confidence and determination,” Ciocca said. “We wish for them to see that their community believes in them and supports their ambition. More than just financial assistance, our gift is a message that every student, regardless of background, deserves a chance to excel. We hope our support not only has the immediate impact of helping with the burden of the college costs, but also inspires students to pay it forward, continuing the cycle of community upliftment and support.”
Ciocca wants to deepen his support for La Salle as he considers ways to educate students through internship and mentorship opportunities across his dealerships to provide insight into the business world. He also plans to support the University by cheering on the Explorers men’s basketball team.
Through it all, Ciocca will remember the impact his mom made on his values as he continues to give back.
“Our roots in Northeast Philadelphia instilled a profound appreciation for the power of community and the importance of lifting each other up as our dealerships have grown,” Ciocca said. “So has our sense of responsibility and making a positive difference. Business at its core is about relationships and community. Our success over the years hasn’t just been due to selling cars, which is true, but it’s been about forging bonds, understanding the needs of those we serve, giving back in a way of expressing gratitude, and reinforcing those connections. It’s about nurturing a legacy of care, trust, and mutual respect.”