November 17, 2014

Celtics Star Rajon Rondo, Co-owner Steve Pagliuca and Sun Life Financial Present $110,000 in Grants & Scholarships to Boston Nonprofits & Students at Celtics Pre-game Ceremony

Basketball Star Rajon Rondo, Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca and Sun Life executives surprise winning students Jackensen Verdul and Chi Kwok with scholarships; Schools on Wheels of Massachusetts and West End House among 12 exceptional organizations across U.S. honored with Sun Life Rising Star Awards for commitment to education at TD Garden before Celtics vs. Suns game

Wellesley, Mass. (November 17, 2014) – The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial today announced the Boston recipients of the Sun Life Rising Star Awards and presented $110,000 in grants and scholarships to two nonprofit community organizations and an exemplary student nominated by each nonprofit. The 2014 Boston Sun Life Rising Star Awards recipients are:

  • Nonprofit winners: School on Wheels of Massachusetts (Brockton) & West End House (Allston)
  • Student winners: Jackensen Verdul & Chi Kwok

Sun Life Financial Group Manager Derek Warner joined Boston Celtics Point Guard Rajon Rondo and co-owner Steve Pagliuca to surprise each winning student with a $5,000 scholarship for college, and recognize each nonprofit organization with a $50,000 grant at a special presentation prior to the Celtics vs. Suns game at TD Garden. The winners were treated to a meet and greet with Rajon Rondo and watched the game from a luxury suite with their families and friends. Sun Life has been a sponsor of the Boston Celtics since 2010.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is dedicated to improving educational opportunities for students and education-based nonprofit organizations that support them in our nation’s under-served metropolitan areas. Now in its fifth year, Sun Life recognizes the remarkable achievements of all Sun Life Rising Star Awards recipients, and celebrates these exceptional students and organizations for their continued dedication to education.

This year, Sun Life will provide $660,000 in grants, scholarships and other resources to outstanding organizations and students in Boston, Nashville, San Francisco, South Florida and the Tulsa/Oklahoma City area. By the end of 2014, Sun Life Financial will have committed nearly $5 million to 86 students and 79 nonprofit organizations in 16 different cities across the country. Sun Life has committed $660,000 in Boston to local education-based nonprofit organizations and under-served area students.

“We’re committed to investing in the health of our communities through initiatives like our Sun Life Rising Star Awards program,” said Dan Fishbein, President, Sun Life Financial U.S. “Today’s student scholarship recipients have overcome great obstacles to achieve success. These remarkable individuals and the nonprofit organizations that comprise this year’s class of Sun Life Rising Star Award recipients inspire us all and we look forward to seeing the positive impact that the collective efforts of all our Rising Star recipients will have on their local communities and beyond.”

Sun Life also 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.

“Sun Life shows incredible dedication to education through their Rising Star Awards program, and we are honored to join them in the presentation of these awards,” said Steve Pagliuca, co-owner of the Boston Celtics. “These organizations have gone above and beyond to further education in Boston. They are truly transforming our community.”

Judging panels comprised of government officials, community, education and business leaders evaluate the applications and student nominations in Boston 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 a post-secondary education, leadership qualities, commitment to his or her community, and a 750-word essay.

This year’s panel included:

  • Darren Ambler, Director of Insight Insurance Agency
  • Lisa Carrier, Media & Political Affairs at Consulate General of Canada in Boston
  • Denise Doyle, President of Stop Loss Insurance Brokers, Inc.
  • Paul Joyce, Principal at Mercer
  • Roxanne Lowe, Principal at Mercer
  • Jon Trevisan, Senior Vice President of Willis Group
  • Heather Rowan-Kenyon, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Boston College Lynch School of Education
  • Steve Pagliuca, Boston Celtics co-owner
  • Kevin Ryan, Principal at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co

Sun Life leverages its partnerships with organizations such as the Boston Celtics and the Miami Dolphins to enhance the student experience promote healthy lifestyles and leverage powerful role models to reinforce the connection between education, health and financial well-being.

Boston’s 2014 Sun Life Rising Star Award winners are:

School on Wheels of Massachusetts (Brockton, MA) – SOWMA’s mission is to educate children impacted by homelessness by providing academic support and one-on-one mentoring so children can reach their full potential. Their vision is for all homeless students in Massachusetts to have the resources they need to break the cycle of homelessness through a quality education.

Student Recipient: Jackensen Verdul (New Bedford High School) 
Jackensen Verdul competes in sports and enjoys giving back to the community through his church and at Harbor House shelter. There, he helps younger children with homework and teaches the older students basketball skills. He plans on continuing tutoring, coaching and mentoring children at the shelter once the school year ends.

West End House (Allston, MA) – The West End House (WEH) is an independent Boys & Girls Club in the City of Boston that supports children and youth as they prepare for success in work, school and life. Every week, they open their doors to hundreds of young people who choose to come to WEH after school and on Saturdays. WEH helps provide the resources and stability needed to provide support as they mature.

Student Recipient: Chi Kwok (Boston Latin School) 
Chi Kwok is the External Liaison of Wolfpack Volunteers, a student-run organization dedicated to volunteering in the Greater Boston Area. Kwok is also a Peer Leader and a Krupp Leader at the West End House Boys & Girls Club, where he facilitates activities and teaches the younger members to play guitar and drums. He is an Advanced Placement honor roll student, and recently received the Director’s Award for most outstanding participation at MIT’s SEED Academy.

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. The Sun Life Financial group of companies operates under the “Sun Life Financial” name strictly as a marketing name and no legal significance is expressed or implied. 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, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Bermuda. In the United States and elsewhere, insurance products are offered by members of the Sun Life Financial group that are insurance companies. In the United States, Sun Life Financial provides a range of products and services to employers and their employees, including Group and Voluntary Accident, Critical Illness, Dental, Disability, Life, and Stop-Loss Insurance Products. 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. Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE), and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF. For more information, please visit

About The Boston Celtics
A charter member of the Basketball Association of America (which evolved into the National Basketball Association) since 1946, the Boston Celtics have won a record 17 NBA Championships, including eight (8) in a row from 1959-1966, and have won NBA titles in three different eras. In addition, 32 former Celtics players, management or staff have been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In December 2002 the team returned to local ownership for the first time since 1963. For more information on the Celtics, log on to

Media contact:
Keith Gainsboro, Elevate Communications, 617-895-7905,
Heather Walker, Boston Celtics, 617-594-4453,

SLPC 26278 11/14 (Exp. 11/19)