October 13, 2011

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

Cranbrook Educational Community; InsideOut Literary Arts Project; Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and remarkable students honored at surprise award presentations

Wellesley, MA (October 13, 2011) – Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) today announced Detroit’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 three separate area award presentations led by prominent local community members. The attendees were also treated to a live performance by members of a local creative theatre group who performed juggling and choreographed acrobatics. On October 15, the winning students and nonprofit organizations will also enjoy a VIP pre-show reception and tickets to Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour™, the latest production by Cirque du Soleil®. Sun Life Financial is an Official Sponsor of the 2011 Cirque du Soleil Big Top and Arena Touring Shows, as well as the U.S. leg of Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour.

The winning Sun Life Rising Star organizations were selected by a seven-person judging panel comprised of some of Detroit’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 Detroit Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners include:

CranbrookEducational Community – Cranbrook Educational Community is one of the world’s leading centers of education, science and art. Cranbrook is comprised of a graduate Academy of Art, contemporary Art Museum, House & Gardens, natural history museum and Pre-K through 12 independent college preparatory schools.

Student Recipient: Jose Davila, Waterford Mott HS

  • Jose was selected to participate from a pool of hundreds of applicants to attend the Horizons-Upward Bound (HUB) summer and winter phases where he later earned a position as a Red Key ambassador. 
  • He is editor-in-chief of the HUBCAP student newspaper and has contributed to the HUB Happenings newsletter.
  • Jose was instrumental in the development of the Student Leadership Retreat, facilitated by the University of Michigan’s Programs for Intergroup Dialogue and Youth and Community, which brought together students to expand their leadership skills and enhance their intercultural experience.
  • Jose is an official representative of Bridging the Divide (BTD), promoting healthy diversity in metro Detroit, and he helped establish a magazine for the program and initiated the Clark Park Cleanup, BTD’s first community service project.

InsideOut Literary Arts Project By immersing students in the joy and power of poetry and literary self-expression, InsideOut inspires them to think broadly, create bravely and share their voices with the wider world. Guided by professional writers in classrooms and celebrated by publications and performances in their schools and communities, youth learn that their words and ideas matter and that their pens can launch them off the page into extraordinary lives.

Student Recipient: Joseph T. Verge, Arts Academy in the Woods  

  • Joseph has been a devoted participant with the poetry programming of InsideOut Literary Arts Project since 2008 when he joined the Summer Literary Arts Movement and then became the youngest member of IO’s Citywide Poets, an after school poetry writing and performance program which holds workshops at various neighborhood sites and the Detroit Cultural Center.
  • After 4 years with CWP, Joseph is now a member of IO’s Citywide Agents, a group of advanced teen poets and alumni, who carry the art of poetry in peer-led workshops to youth in after school community settings, adjudicated situations, shelters and elsewhere.
  • Joseph’s commitment to excellence is evidenced by his numerous awards:  he was a finalist for the 2011 Skillman Foundation’s Youth Legacy scholarship and received awards for his poetry from the Michigan Youth Arts Festival, the 11th Lotus Press High School Poetry Prize and the 2011 Rhythm Roots & Rhyme Poetry Slam sponsored by the Detroit Jazz Fest.
  • Joseph has performed his poems fearlessly for many audiences, including WSU’s annual MLK Day Tribute Luncheon at Orchestra Hall (in 2010 and 2011) and for over 3000 at the San Francisco Opera House in July 2011 as member of InsideOut’s triumphant Brave New Voice Youth Poetry Slam team which won 4th place from over 750 youth and 50 teams from across the US and around the world.  InsideOut selected Joseph to attend a special invitational poetry workshop for youth at the White House in May 2011, where his performance of his poem “Three-Two-One-POW!” was live streamed across the nation.

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit – Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit is an internationally acclaimed youth development program that concentrates on helping young artists excel on stage and in life. Mosaic's mission is to empower young people to maximize their potential through professional performing arts training and the creation of first-rate theatrical and musical art.

Student Recipient: Immanuel Greene, University of Detroit Jesuit HS

  • A member of the Mosaic Singers since the age of 12, Immanuel currently receives a scholarship to attend the private, academically challenging University of Detroit Jesuit High School.
  • His curriculum includes honors math and science classes, and he maintains a minimum 3.5 GPA.
  • Immanuel uses his artistic gifts to serve his community, both as a performer and as a teacher; he leads free African dance and drumming classes at the Don Bosco Hall community center and at the Osborn Arts Center, located within two of Detroit’s lowest income neighborhoods.
  • He dreams of going to New York University and pursuing a career as a doctor of psychiatry.

The judging panel included: Towers Watson Account Director Gary Cumpata; Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan Director of Education Initiatives Amy DeWys-VanHecke; Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Regional President Bryan Hirn; Governor's Office of Michigan Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives Director Harvey Hollins III; Detroit Public Schools Foundation President & CEO Chacona W. Johnson; University of Michigan School of Education Professor Susan Neuman; and Kapnick Benefit Services President Steve Peck.

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 23797 10/2011 (exp. 11/2016)