October 16, 2012

Prominent Philadelphia Business, Community & Education Leaders to Serve as Sun Life Rising Star Awards Program Judges

Distinguished panel of experts to help award $110,000 in grants and scholarships to outstanding students & nonprofit organizations in greater Philadelphia

Wellesley, Mass. (October 16, 2012) – The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE:SLF, TSX:SLF) today announced that nine prominent Philadelphia business, community and education leaders will serve as judges for the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program, the financial services company's signature national philanthropic initiative.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program recognizes nonprofits that redress low high school graduation rates and honors outstanding students who have overcome significant obstacles to succeed. The program also promotes financial literacy as a means to achieve life-long financial wellness and stability. The judges will help Sun Life award $110,000 in grants and scholarships to exemplary Philadelphia students and nonprofit organizations committed to enhancing educational opportunities for under-served youth. Each winning organization receives a $50,000 grant and selects an exemplary student they work with to receive a $5,000 college scholarship. Since the program’s inception, Sun Life has granted nearly $3 million to 54 students and 47 nonprofit organizations across the country.

The distinguished panel is comprised of some of Philadelphia’s foremost government officials, education, community and business leaders. Judges include:

  • Nicole Anderson, Operations/Program Consultant
  • Claudia Averette, Deputy Chief of Administration to the Superintendent, School District of Philadelphia
  • Priscilla Sims Brown, Former Senior Vice President, Head of Marketing and Strategy, Sun Life Financial U.S.
  • Napoleon Garcia, Publisher, Impacto Latin Newspaper
  • Marcos Lopez, President and CEO, Exude Benefits
  • Mazda Miles, President, Perfection Events, Inc.
  • Honorable Lisette Shirdan-Harris, Judge, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Court of Common Pleas
  • Manny Stamatakis, Chairman and CEO, Capital Management Enterprises
  • Dionne Vernon, Program Management Director, Comcast Cable Corporation

“We are thrilled to have some of Philadelphia’s foremost community and business leaders help us select this year’s Sun Life Rising Star organizations from the pool of outstanding applications we’ve received,” said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. “Their keen understanding of the local education landscape provides us an invaluable resource to promote financial literacy by helping incredibly talented students, and the organizations that help them, embark on a path to a sound financial future.”

This year, Sun Life Financial expanded the program to seven cities from five in 2011, and will award grants and scholarships to outstanding students and nonprofit organizations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and South Florida.

Judges will evaluate applications and student nominations based on the following criteria:

  • Nonprofit’s commitment to developing and promoting skills that directly translate to educational engagement and matriculation rates for secondary school youth 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

In addition to monetary support, the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program provides winning organizations with educational curriculum and resources to increase financial literacy among students. Sun Life recently partnered with dfree®, a movement developed by Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. to galvanize the public to overcome the culture of debt and attain financial self-sufficiency. As part of the partnership, Sun Life and dfree® will provide Sun Life Rising Star Award students and organizations with the Breaking Free Workbook, which includes interactive activities and evaluation tools to encourage debt-free living using the program’s core principles and financial strategies. Soaries will also address winning organizations and students at a series of educational seminars in select Sun Life Rising Star cities throughout the fall.

Sun Life will surprise winning students with their $5,000 scholarships at a special presentation at Philadelphia City Hall on October 23. The students will enjoy an exclusive Q&A session led by Philadelphia 76ers star forward Lavoy Allen. Following the surprise scholarship presentation, Lavoy will challenge the students to a basketball shoot-out inside City Hall.

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. In the United States, Sun Life Financial provides a range of products and services to employers and their employees, including group and voluntary life, disability, dental and stop-loss insurance products. These products are issued by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada in all states except New York. In New York, these products are issued by Sun Life Insurance and Annuity Company of New York. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations. 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 contact
Keith Gainsboro, elevate, 857-234-1481,

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Sun Life Rising Star Awards Program 2012 Philadelphia Judging Panel

Nicole Anderson
Nicole Anderson is an independent Operations/Program Consultant with expertise in building cooperative working relationships, driving productivity, supporting change management initiatives, and motivating others to continuously deliver superior results. She is an advocate for the telecommunications industry, continuing education and diversity and inclusion and is an active member of Women in Cable and Telecommunications (WICT).

Claudia Averette
Claudia Averette serves as the Deputy Chief of The Office of Parent, Families, Community Engagement and Faith Partnerships. Averette is an alumni of the Urban League Leadership Institute, and supports the National Black Caucus, National Center on Black Aged and the African American Association, Marketing & Public Relations, and a 2008 recipient of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Woman of the Year Award.

Priscilla Sims Brown
Priscilla Sims Brown was formerly the Senior Vice President, Head of Marketing and Strategy, Sun Life Financial U.S. Known for marshaling direct and matrixed resources to fully integrate and lift brands, Priscilla had direct responsibility for Strategy, Marketing, Branding, Communications, Program Management and Creative Services. She has served on the National Finance Committee for President Barack Obama and is part of the Sun Life team that developed the Sun Life Rising Star Awards Program.

Napoleon Garcia
Garcia is the Executive Director of the Most Influential Latinos Foundation, and the publisher and founder of IMPACTO Latin Newspaper, a weekly Spanish-language publication. A community organizer by vocation, he sits on the Board of the Multicultural Affairs Congress,  LatinArt, the Empowerment Group, and the Latino Empowerment Association of the Delaware Valley -LEAD.

Marcos Lopez
Marcos R. Lopez is the President and CEO of eXude Benefits Group, Inc., a Philadelphia based provider of employee benefits programs, human resource consulting, retirement planning and a discount prescription card. He is currently a board member of the Joseph J. Peters Institute and Leadership Philadelphia and is also on the advisory board of The Salvation Army. Marcos is a graduate of SUNY Stony Brook.

Mazda Miles
Mazda T. Miles is President of Perfection Events Inc. After designing, managing and executing high impact meetings and events for corporations, non-profit organizations, and the public sector for over a decade, she founded Perfection Events in 2009. She also extends her time and expertise volunteering with the American Red Cross, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and the United Way of Southeastern PA Women’s Initiative.

Honorable Lisette Shirdan-Harris
Honorable Lisette Shirdan-Harris is a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge assigned to the Trial Division where she presides over major felony cases.  She was elected in November 2005 and began serving a ten-year term on January 2, 2006. 

Prior to her election, Judge Shirdan-Harris maintained a general.  She is active in numerous community and legal organizations and is the past Chair of the National Bar Association’s Judicial Council, Clifford Scott Green Chapter, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Pa. Chapter, and the Housing Association of Delaware Valley

Manny Stamatakis
Manny Stamatakis is the Chairman, Founder and CEO of Capital Management Enterprises. In his role, Manny specializes in the areas of employee and executive benefits, managed health care and workers compensation, benefit consulting, risk management, insurance, financial and retirement services. He has founded and actively manages several successful companies. Manny is a qualifying member of Top-of-the-Table, which is achieved by less than two-tenths of one percent of the 350,000 professional life insurance producers worldwide.

Dionne Vernon
Dionne Vernon is a Program Management Director, specifically focused on Video new products deployment for Comcast. She has led the Care deployment efforts for various initiatives including the Digital Broadcast Transition, Tru2Way Retail, Interactive TV Applications, Unified Database, CCDN/Infinity and other Video On Demand initiatives. Prior to Comcast, Dionne worked for MCI, Campbell Soup Company and served as both Director of Advertising & Promotions and Director of Marketing & Communications with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.