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Sun Life Financial, Dolphins Recognize Nonprofits And Students As Sun Life Rising Stars

Posted Sep 18, 2012

American Association of Caregiving Youth; The Guadalupe Center; HANDY; and Women of Tomorrow recognized for commitment to increasing success in high school and beyond. Miami Dolphins star players, cheerleaders and front office staff honor students at surprise award presentations.


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The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) and the Miami Dolphins today announced South Florida’s Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners, awarding a total of $220,000 in grants and scholarships to four local youth-oriented community organizations including American Association of Caregiving Youth, HANDY and The Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program as well as exemplary students nominated by each nonprofit: Sephora Dubreuze, Boca Raton Community High School; Kimi Farrington, Pompano Beach High School; and Ashira Vantrees, Cooper City High School. The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is the educational cornerstone program of the Miami Dolphins Foundation.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program addresses low high school graduation rates in large urban school districts by providing financial resources and education to students and nonprofit organizations and promotes financial literacy as a means to achieve life-long financial wellness and stability. 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. This year, Sun Life expanded the program to seven cities from five in 2011, and will award grants and scholarships to students and nonprofits in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and South Florida.

Sun Life Voluntary Practice Leader Kim Heald joined Miami Dolphins star players Davone Bess and Mike Pouncey, Dolphins cheerleaders and front office executives including CEO Mike Dee, as well as prominent local community members including Corporate Benefit Advisors, LLC CEO Heather Leck to surprise winning students with $5,000 scholarships at separate award presentations across South Florida. Bess, Pouncey and Leck also served on this year’s judging panel. Bess has played a significant role in the program since its inception, addressing students at the inaugural Sun Life Rising Star National Summit at Sun Life Stadium, serving as a mentor to Rising Star student La Gary Roberson and helping select the program scholarship recipients in each of the last three years. 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 Miami Dolphins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars game at Sun Life Stadium on December 16.

“We are making an investment in our 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’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.” 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 Awards 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 this fall.

“It is an honor to once again join Sun Life for the third 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 Miami Dolphins Chief Executive Officer Mike Dee.

A 10-person judging panel comprised of South Florida’s foremost athletes, education and community leaders, philanthropists, financial advisors, city officials and local activists selected the Sun Life Rising Star Awards winners 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 South Florida Sun Life Rising Stars:

Boca Raton/Palm Beach County
American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) – the national resource for the support of children who care for family members who are ill, injured, elderly or disabled by increasing awareness about youth caregiving; fostering the replication of the Caregiving Youth Project; providing support services for student-caregivers and their families; and, establishing the Caregiving Youth Institute. The ultimate goal is for all caregiving youth to be able to complete their education and become healthy, productive adults; no child in the US should need to drop out of school because of family caregiving responsibilities.

Student Recipient: Sephora Dubreuze, Boca Raton Community HS - In addition to her family caregiving responsibilities, Sephora is active in her local community: she has built homes for Habitat for Humanity, helped the elderly and disabled at Avanti Nursing Home, constructed event sets for the City of Boca Raton’s Parks and Recreation Dept., volunteered with Surfers for Autism helping autistic children, and volunteered for In the Pines by working with children from migrant families. She maintains a 3.7 GPA and hopes to study culinary arts and business.

Fort Lauderdale/Broward County
HANDY – HANDY’s mission is to embrace, educate, and empower vulnerable youth to become engaged, productive adults. HANDY has met the needs of almost 50,000 Broward County children and youth in foster and relative/non-relative care under protective supervision.

Student Recipient: Kimi Farrington, Pompano Beach HS - Kimi volunteered at her local Boys and Girls Club during her freshman and sophomore years of high school, where she taught younger girls about positive self esteem and being a role model, and worked with disabled children at her local YMCA helping with the afterschool program. She also worked in a nursing home as a server in their cafeteria and has continued to visit the residents during non-working hours. She maintains a 4.3 GPA from Pompano Beach HS and a 4.0 cumulative GPA at Broward College, where she is dual enrolled. Kimi dreams of being a Supreme Court Justice.

Miami/Miami-Dade County
The Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program – The Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program inspires, motivates and empowers young women to live up to their full potential through a unique mentoring program which pairs its network of over 300 highly accomplished professional women with small groups of at-risk public high schools girls for monthly school-based mentoring sessions. The program exposes at-risk girls to opportunities otherwise unavailable to them; teaches vital personal and professional skills necessary for life success; helps them set and achieve goals; increases their self-esteem, and helps to reduce and prevent engaging in risky behaviors. Women of Tomorrow now operates in 42 Florida and 7 Metro Detroit cities, serving over 2,500 at-risk young women annually in 126 public high schools, and has awarded over $3 million in scholarships.

Student Recipient: Ashira Vantrees, Cooper City HS - Ashira received a Girl Scout Gold Award for her efforts collecting donations and preparing care packages for 136 homeless individuals in the community. She also prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a local homeless shelter and helped put together additional care packages and letters for U.S. troops serving overseas. She maintains a 4.13 GPA and has taken all honors classes in English, science and history in all three years of high school and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in disaster management and humanitarian relief, stemming from her passion for giving back to those in need.

In addition to Bess, Pouncey and Leck, the judging panel included: Champion Services Group President and CEO James Champion; Consortium of Florida Education Foundations President Mary Chance; local philanthropist Ada Cole; Florida College System Foundation President Judy Green; Sun Sentinel “Society Scene” Publisher Stacy Ostrau; Sapoznik Insurance & Associates Founder, President and CEO Rachel Sapoznik; and City of Miami Protocol Officer Dr. Wallis Tinnie. For more information on the Sun Life Rising Star Awards, please visit www.sunliferisingstar.com.
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