October 13, 2014

Nashville Hockey Star Seth Jones, Grammy Award-winning Singer Michael W. Smith, Sun Life Financial Present $110,000 in Grants & Scholarships to Nashville Nonprofits & Students

NHL Star, Musician, Sun Life executives surprise winning students Cortney Jenkins, Christian Marshall with scholarships; Monroe Harding, Inc. and Rocketown of Middle Tennessee among 12 exceptional organizations across U.S. honored with Sun Life Rising Star Awards for commitment to education

Wellesley, MA (October 13, 2014) – The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial today announced the Nashville 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 Nashville Sun Life Rising Star Awards recipients are:

  • Nonprofit winners: Monroe Harding, Inc. & Rocketown of Middle Tennessee
  • Student winners: Cortney Jenkins & Christian Marshall

Sun Life Group Market Manager Anthony Russo joined Nashville Defenseman Seth Jones and musician Michael W. Smith to surprise each winning student with a $5,000 scholarship for college, and recognize each nonprofit organization with a $50,000 grant at two award presentations in Nashville.

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 $220,000 in Nashville 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.

Judging panels comprised of government officials, community, education and business leaders evaluate the applications and student nominations in Nashville 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:

  • Becky Blair, Vice President and Regional Store Manager at Belk
  • Ben Hanback, Senior Vice President at Regions Insurance
  • Dr. Emily Pendergrass, Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University
  • Brent Watkins, President at Pancoast Benefits

Nashville’s 2014 Sun Life Rising Star Award recipients are:

Monroe Harding, Inc. (Nashville, TN)
Since 1893, Monroe Harding has provided security, support and a chance for success to youth and young adults (birth to age 26) in, or transitioning out of, state's custody. Their mission is to provide youth in foster care with the same care that a family would provide. Their four key programs include Cooperative Living, Independent Living, Foster Care and Youth Connections, and give children and youth safe homes, loving guidance, and confidence to grow into independent individuals.

Cortney Jenkins (Hillsboro High School)
Cortney Jenkins was a leader at Hillsboro High School and in the Nashville community. While at Monroe Harding, he set an example for the young men on campus by participating in the educational courses and life skills groups offered and consistently modeled excellent behavior and leadership.

Rocketown of Middle Tennessee (Nashville, TN)
Rocketown was founded in 1994 by Contemporary Christian Music artist Michael W. Smith. Rocketown has served 1,000,000 youth since its inception, through afterschool enrichment programs, youth arts initiatives, intramural sports and sporting events, youth ministry and outreach programs, and attraction based services like Sixth Avenue Skatepark and concert venues.

Christian Marshall (Nashville School of Arts)
Christian Marshall is an active participant in several Rocketown programs, leadership groups, and volunteer service opportunities and projects. His leadership in the Rocketown dance program earned him the honor of Most Outstanding Participant in 2013-2014.

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

Media contact: Keith Gainsboro, elevate, 617-895-7905,

SLPC 26194 10/14 (Exp. 10/19)