September 19, 2013

Miami Dolphins Stars and Sun Life Financial Present $220,000 in Grants and Scholarships to South Florida Nonprofits and Rising Star Students at Surprise Ceremonies

Casa Valentina; ChildNet; New Horizons of Southwest Florida and Urban Youth Impact among 16 exceptional organizations across U.S. to receive Sun Life Rising Star Award for commitment to education

Wellesley, Mass. (September 19, 2013) – The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) and the Miami Dolphins today announced the South Florida recipients of the Sun Life Rising Star Awards. The financial services organization awarded $220,000 in grants and scholarships to four nonprofit community organizations: Casa Valentina, ChildNet, New Horizons of Southwest Florida and Urban Youth Impact, as well as exemplary students nominated by each nonprofit: Kimberly Sandino, Vanessa Civil, Angel Lopez and Rachelle Battle. The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is the educational cornerstone program of the Miami Dolphins Foundation.

Sun Life Group Manager John Hak and Sun Life Employee Benefits Representative Brandon Davis joined Miami Dolphins star players Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey, Dolphins cheerleaders and front office executives, as well as prominent local community members including Area President for the Delray Beach office of Gallagher Benefit Services Heather Leck to surprise winning students with $5,000 scholarships at a series of award presentations across South Florida. This year’s Sun Life Rising Star Awards winning organizations and students will be recognized at a special pre-game on-field ceremony and celebration at the San Diego Chargers vs. Miami Dolphins game at Sun Life Stadium on November 17.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program provides financial resources to highly-motivated students and nonprofit organizations in large urban school districts committed to encouraging underserved youth to stay in school. The program, now in its fourth year, also promotes the importance of higher education as a means to achieve lifelong financial wellness.

Each Rising Star organization received a $50,000 grant and each student winner received a $5,000 scholarship towards a college education. This year, Sun Life will provide nearly $1 million in grants, scholarships and other resources to outstanding organizations and students in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Nashville and South Florida. By the end of 2013, Sun Life will have invested nearly $4 million to recognize a total of 70 students and 63 nonprofit organizations in 14 U.S. cities, since launching the program in 2010.

“We are proud to invest in America’s youth, our education system and the workforce of tomorrow through our Sun Life Rising Star Awards program,” said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. “It is inspiring to see the tireless and selfless dedication of these impressive young adults, and we look forward to following their successes through college and beyond.”

Sun Life continues to support the students following their scholarship awards with various educational events and programs. Each year, Sun Life invites Rising Star recipients to apply for summer internship opportunities at its U.S. headquarters in Wellesley, Massachusetts following their freshman year of college. The goal is to provide a substantial, meaningful work experience that lays the foundation for future professional success. In 2013 Sun Life sponsored a trip for 17 past award winners to attend and participate in the America’s Promise Alliance “Building a Grad Nation” Summit in Washington D.C. Sun Life served as the first-ever sponsor of the Youth Experience Pre-Conference, which convened more than 100 students from across the country to examine the progress and remaining challenges in the nation’s effort to help more youth graduate high school with the skills necessary to succeed in college and professionally.

In each city, a judging panel comprised of the foremost government officials, community, education and business leaders evaluate the applications and student nominations based on the following criteria:

  • Nonprofit’s commitment to developing and promoting skills that directly translate to education engagement and matriculation rates for secondary school youth under age 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 or youth in a manner yielding measurable results
  • Student nominee’s plan to pursue a post-secondary education, leadership qualities, commitment to his or her community, and a 750-word essay on what they love most about their lives and what they do to protect it

“It is an honor to join Sun Life for the fourth year to recognize these incredible students and community organizations for their tireless efforts and commitment to bettering the lives of under-served youth in South Florida,” said Ilona Wolpin, Miami Dolphins Senior Director of Community Relations.


This year’s panel included:

  • James Champion, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Champion Services Group, Inc. (CSG)
  • Mary Chance, President, Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF)
  • Ada Cole, Member of Mo Homes LLC and Riverbend LLC
  • Judy Green, President, Florida College System Foundation (FCSF)
  • Richie Incognito, Guard, Miami Dolphins
  • Debra Lage, Senior Associate and Lead Health and Welfare Benefits Consultant, Mercer
  • Heather Leck, Area President for the Delray Beach office of Gallagher Benefit Services
  • Stacy Ostrau, Society Scene Publisher and Community Affairs Manager, South Florida Sun Sentinel
  • Mike Pouncey, Center, Miami Dolphins
  • Dr. Wallis Tinnie, Protocol Officer, City of Miami
  • Rachel Sapoznik, President & CEO, Sapoznik Insurance & Associates>

To help support the program, Sun Life leverages its partnerships with top-tier organizations such as the Miami Dolphins and the Boston Celtics to enhance the student experience and raise awareness about the importance of education in our society’s future.

South Florida’s 2013 Sun Life Rising Star Award winners are:

Palm Beach County

Urban Youth Impact – Founded in 1997, Urban Youth Impact exists to love, equip and empower inner-city youth and their parents to fulfill their God-given purpose.  Urban Youth Impact seeks to reverse troubling trends and fulfill its mission by making accessible the support and opportunities that empower children and families to develop critical life-skills that result in less juvenile crime, fewer teen pregnancies, less substance abuse, less child abuse/domestic violence, and fewer school drop-outs.

Student Recipient: Rachelle Battle, Lake Worth High School
As a volunteer intern in the school office, Rachelle does everything from filing and copying to make the lives of those educating her and her peers just a bit easier. Rachelle also takes time to volunteer at the Salvation Army, primarily serving at their concession stand during athletic events. The top of Rachelle’s resume reads “Future OB/GYN”.

Broward County

ChildNet – Established in 2002, ChildNet is the community-based care lead agency in Broward and Palm Beach counties, the single private non-profit entity responsible for administration of the local child welfare systems in each county. ChildNet’s mission is to protect abused, abandoned and neglected children in the communities it serves. 

Student Recipient: Vanessa Civil, Blanche Ely High School
Vanessa was selected to attend a leadership program in Washington D.C., to serve as a peer counselor and to participate in a work experience after-school program. Vanessa has maintained a 3.2 GPA throughout high school while participating as a band member and in other after school programs, as well as competing in flag football.

Collier/Lee County

New Horizons of Southwest Florida – New Horizons of Southwest Florida was founded in 2002 to help meet the academic and life skill needs of at-risk children in our community. It serves more than 260 youth weekly from grades K-12 with after-school tutoring and mentoring at no cost to the families through the Super Kids Club and Super Teens Club programs.

Student Recipient: Angel Lopez, Estero High School
Angel is a volunteer and employee of New Horizons of Southwest Florida where he tutors and mentors children grades K-5 at a local Super Kids Club. In his sophomore year of high school, Angel was accepted to the Medical Academy. He also takes advantage of summer breaks to develop team building and leadership skills at camps offered by New Horizons and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Miami/Miami-Dade County

Casa Valentina – Casa Valentina’s mission is to help youth transition successfully from foster care to independent living. Their vision is a community in which all foster children receive the care and support they need to reach their full potential.

Student Recipient: Kimberly Sandino, Miami Northwestern Senior High School
Kimberly is deeply committed to her education, and is planning to apply to college and focus on a Hospitality Management Program. Kimberly earns high marks in her classes, and is a talented writer.Kimberly’s goal is to one day manage a hotel, where she says she will make guests feel at home – to ensure that they want to come back year after year.

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. 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. 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

SLPC25339 (9/13) exp. 9/18