October 26, 2011

Sun Life Financial Recognizes Boston Nonprofits & Three College-bound High School Seniors as Sun Life Rising Stars; Presents $165,000 in Grants and Scholarships

Hyde Square Task Force; School on Wheels of Massachusetts; TENACITY & remarkable students honored at surprise award presentation at Massachusetts State House  

Wellesley, MA (October 26, 2011) – Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) today announced Boston’s Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners. The financial services company awarded a total of $165,000 in grants and scholarships to three youth-oriented nonprofits and to an exemplary student nominated by each organization. The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program aims to address low high school graduation rates in large urban school districts by providing financial and educational resources to students and nonprofit organizations committed to increasing success in high school and beyond. The program, now in its second year, also seeks to promote financial literacy as a means to achieve life-long financial wellness and stability.

Each winning organization will receive a $50,000 grant, while each student nominee will receive a $5,000 Sun Life Rising Star scholarship towards financing a college education. In addition to monetary support, Sun Life will collaborate with the organizations to increase financial literacy through curriculum and educational resources. In 2011, Sun Life will invest more than $1 million to outstanding students and nonprofit organizations affiliated with large urban school districts across the country, including Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and South Florida.

“Access to quality education for all is critical to our country’s future, and that’s why it’s a priority for Sun Life to continue investing in and improving the lives of students who are committed to furthering their education,” said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. “We are proud to reward our amazing Rising Star students for their perseverance in the face of adversity. It is our firm belief that they need only opportunity and a little support to rise to their potential.”

Sun Life surprised winning students with their $5,000 scholarships at an awards presentation led by prominent local community members at the Massachusetts State House. The students and attendees were also treated to an exclusive, behind-the-scenes State House tour and a VIP reception recognizing their achievements.

The winning Sun Life Rising Star organizations were selected by a five-person judging panel comprised of some of Boston’s foremost education and community leaders, philanthropists, financial advisors, city officials and local activists based on the following criteria:

  • Nonprofit’s commitment to developing and promoting skills that directly translate to educational success for students under the age of 21
  • Nonprofit’s demonstrated partnership with a secondary or post-secondary educational institution
  • Nonprofit’s documented ability to respond to the needs of specific groups of youth in a manner yielding measurable results
  • Student nominee’s plan to pursue post-secondary education, leadership qualities, commitment to his or her community, and a 750-word essay on how financial education contributes to future success

The 2011 Boston Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners include:


Hyde SquareTask Force – The Hyde Square Task Force began as an effort to reverse the trend of youth violence in Hyde-Jackson Square. Today, Hyde Square Task Force serves 1000 youth ages 6-21 from Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and across Boston through leadership development, college preparation, arts & cultural enrichment, youth-led community organizing and positive community-building events.

Student Recipient: Sheila Reyes, Urban Science Academy

  • Sheila has been a youth leader with the Hyde Square Task Force since she was 14 years old. 
  • Sheila has taken many steps to help achieve her goals of attending college - she has diligently saved money from her job, attended financial literacy workshops, and worked with Hyde Square Task Force staff to investigate scholarship and financial aid options.
  • She played a critical role in an effort to improve the relationship between local youth and the Boston transit police force and was a vocal advocate for increased cooperation between the groups and helped create a permanent forum for dialogue to share ideas and defuse tension.
  • She helped create and now serves on the MBTA Youth Advisory Board where she meets monthly with transit agency officials to discuss issues pertaining to youth and help make important decisions regarding public transportation.


School on Wheels of Massachusetts – Cheryl Opper, Executive Director, founded School on Wheels of Massachusetts in April of 2004. The mission of School on Wheels of Massachusetts is to educate children impacted by homelessness by providing academic support and one-on-one mentoring so children can reach their full potential.

Student Recipient: Tayler Lee Sabella, Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical HS  

  • Tayler is an active participant in extra-curricular activities in school including drama, fitness, and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).
  • Tayler is the only student member on the School on Wheels Advisory Council, where she has participated as a speaker at the School on Wheels Volunteer Appreciation Dinner as well as other events.
  • Tayler received the “High Five” award from her high school; a recognition for exceptionally caring students who give back to their school and community.
  • Taylor is a positive role model for her sister Britni who is now planning on attending college and who recently made the honor roll in 7th grade.
  • Tayler plans on attending either Bridgewater State University or Emerson College following her high school graduation.


Tenacity – Founded in 1999, Tenacity has served over 20,000 Boston students who otherwise would lack a safe, productive, and healthy after-school and summer environment. The organization’s high-quality literacy and tennis programming not only build academic skills and improve fitness, they also foster the development of strong bonds between our students and caring staff, which instills the resilience needed to succeed in school and life.

Student Recipient: Oluibukon "Tutu" Ekpebor, Gould Academy

  • Every summer, Tutu is an amazing presence as a counselor at Tenacity Summer Tennis & Reading Program – she takes great pride in being able to give back to the youth who are now coming up through the program, mentoring them and encouraging them to take their studies as seriously as she has.
  • Several months ago, Tutu was pivotal in the decision of another 8th grade student to attend Beacon Academy - without Tutu's guidance and support, the Tenacity staff is not sure this young woman would have entered Beacon Academy, where she recently completed a rigorous summer program.
  • Tutu hopes to attend Suffolk University and is interested in their study abroad program in Spain.

The judging panel included: Canadian Consulate General in Boston Media & Political Affairs Officer Lisa Carrier; Boston College Lynch School of Education Assistant Professor Heather Rowan-Kenyon; Mayor’s Office of Human Services Deputy Chief Adalberto Teixeira; and returning judges The Boston Globe Publisher & New England Media Group of The New York Times Company President Christopher Mayer and fashion designer & wife of former Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, Marie Whitney.

For more information on the Sun Life Rising Star Awards, please visit

About Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. In the United States and elsewhere, insurance products are offered by members of the Sun Life Financial group that are insurance companies. Sun Life Financial Inc., the holding company for the Sun Life Financial group of companies, is a public company. It is not an insurance company and does not offer insurance products for sale in the United States or elsewhere, and does not guarantee the obligations of its insurance company subsidiaries. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations. As of June 30, 2011, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of US $492 billion. For more information, please visit  Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.

Media contacts
Alexi Maravel, Sun Life Financial, 781-446-1624,
Keith Gainsboro, elevate, 857-234-1481,

SLPC 23857 10/2011 (Exp. 10/2016)