August 18, 2012

Sun Life Financial Recognizes Houston Nonprofits and Two Exceptional High School Seniors as Sun Life Rising Stars; Presents $110,000 in Grants and Scholarships

Genesys Works Houston, KIPP Houston; Cesar E. Chavez High School Senior Liliana Mendoza, KIPP Houston High School Senior Keiry Hernandez honored at surprise award presentations at KOOZA™ from Cirque Du Soleil®

Wellesley, MA (August 18, 2012) – The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) today announced Houston’s Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners, awarding a total of $110,000 in grants and scholarships to Genesys Works - Houston and KIPP Houston, two Houston area, youth-oriented nonprofits, and Cesar E. Chavez High School Senior Liliana Mendoza and KIPP Houston High School Senior Keiry Hernandez, the exemplary students nominated by each respective organization. The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program, now in its third year, addresses low high school graduation rates in large urban school districts by providing financial resources and education to students and nonprofit organizations, as well as promoting financial literacy as a means to achieve life-long financial wellness and stability. Since 2010, Sun Life Financial has awarded nearly $3 million through the program.

As proud family members looked on, Sun Life surprised the winning students with their $5,000 scholarships at a special awards presentation held in advance of KOOZA from Cirque du Soleil at Sam Houston Race Park, where the students and their families enjoyed an exclusive experience with VIP ROUGE™*. The winners participated in performance workshops led by performers from KOOZA, as well as a Q&A session with the Company Manager.

In addition to monetary support, the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program will provide 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.

“Through our Sun Life Rising Star Awards program, we are making an investment in our youth, our education system and the workforce of tomorrow,” said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. “It’s both a privilege and our pleasure to reward these incredible students who have persevered in the face of adversity and stayed committed to furthering their education. We believe they need only opportunity and support to realize their full potential.”

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. 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.

The winning Sun Life Rising Star organizations were selected by a six-person judging panel comprised of some of Houston’s foremost community and education leaders 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

The 2012 Houston Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners include:

Genesys Works – Houston – Genesys Works' mission is to enable economically disadvantaged high school students to enter and thrive in the economic mainstream by providing them the knowledge and work experience required to succeed as professionals. Genesys Works changes the trajectory of life for low-income students from one destined to a lifetime of low-wage occupations to one where they will fully participate in the economic mainstream as professionals. Genesys Works has additional sites in St. Paul/Minneapolis and Chicago, with further expansion planned in the near future.

Student recipient: Liliana Mendoza, Cesar E. Chavez High School

  • Liliana was a leader of the Criminal Justice program during her sophomore year, where she was responsible for duties including hall monitoring, school event supervision, and after school patrol. She believes that the experience helped her to develop initiative to contribute personally to making her school and community a better place to live.
  • In addition to her tenacity in the classroom, Liliana excelled in a student art competition by using recycled materials to create a project on sea turtles, while focusing on raising awareness among her peers, teachers, and family about the importance of recycling and protecting endangered species.
  • Liliana hopes to attend Sam Houston State University to continue to pursue a career in criminal justice.

KIPP Houston – KIPP Houston Public Schools-KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program, is on a mission to develop in underserved students the academic skills, intellectual habits, and qualities of character necessary to succeed at all levels of pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, college, and the competitive world beyond. Now entering its second decade, KIPP has become a national leader in the movement to provide all children with access to an excellent education. 

Student recipient: Keiry Hernandez, KIPP Houston High School

  • Keiry was a Teacher’s Assistant in her junior year and came in each day with the goal of taking full ownership of all projects she was given, while never hesitating to go above and beyond by working on the weekends or lending an extra hand if called upon.
  • Keiry’s positive demeanor always allows her classmates to feel at ease around her as she encourages each and every individual to do their best, while acting as a support system to her peers.
  • Keiry hopes to attend the University of Texas at Austin, and also plans on applying to Texas Christian University and Texas Women’s University.

Houston’s Sun Life Rising Stars judging panel included: Publishing Consultant Audrey Hainey-Owens; Willis of Houston Employee Benefits Practice Vice President & Practice Leader John Mann; Alliant Managing Director Rob Schanen; Chellae Consulting Principal Kae Shakir; City of Houston Mayor’s Volunteer Initiatives Program, Department of Neighborhoods Chief Service Officer Cameron Waldner and Gallagher Benefit Services Houston Area President Robert White.

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

*VIP Rouge™ is presented by Infiniti®

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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