Miami Dolphins’ Stars Davone Bess & Mike Pouncey, Prominent South Florida Community & Education Leaders to Serve as Sun Life Rising Star Awards Program Judges

The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE:SLF, TSX:SLF) and the Miami Dolphins today announced that wide receiver Davone Bess and center Mike Pouncey are among the ten South Florida community and education leaders who will serve as judges for the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program, the financial services company’s signature national philanthropic initiative and educational cornerstone program of the Miami Dolphins Foundation.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program provides financial resources and education to students and nonprofit organizations and promotes financial literacy as a means to achieve lifelong financial wellness and stability. The judges will help Sun Life award $220,000 in grants and scholarships to exemplary South Florida students and nonprofit organizations committed to enhancing educational opportunities for under-served youth. Each winning organization receives a $50,000 grant and selects an exemplary student they work with to receive a $5,000 college scholarship. Sun Life has granted nearly $3 million dollars to 54 students and 47 nonprofit organizations across the country.


The distinguished panel is comprised of some of South Florida’s foremost education, community and business leaders, government officials, philanthropists and other local activists. Bess has played a significant role in the last 2 years of the program – addressing students at the inaugural Sun Life Rising Star National Summit, volunteering to serve as a mentor to one of the winning students, and helping select the program scholarship recipients. Judges include:


·          Davone Bess, Wide Receiver, Miami Dolphins

·          James Champion, President, Champion Services Group

·          Mary Chance, Executive Director, Consortium of Florida Education Foundations

·          Ada Cole, Local Philanthropist

·          Judy Green, President, The Florida College System Foundation

·          Heather Leck, CEO, Corporate Benefit Advisors, LLC

·          Stacy Ostrau, “Society Scene” Publisher, Sun Sentinel

·          Mike Pouncey, Center, Miami Dolphins

·          Rachel Sapoznik, President & CEO, Sapoznik Insurance & Associates, Inc.

·          Dr. Wallis Tinnie, Protocol Officer, City of Miami


“We are thrilled to have some of South Florida’s foremost community and education leaders help us select this year’s Sun Life Rising Star organizations from the pool of outstanding applications we’ve received,” said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. “Their keen understanding of the local education landscape will be invaluable as we continue to create sustainable programming that promotes financial literacy and helps these incredibly talented and deserving students and organizations embark on a path to a sound financial future.”


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.


“We’re honored to have such a prominent group of judges from the South Florida community join Sun Life and the Miami Dolphins in recognizing these exceptional students and nonprofit organizations,” said Miami Dolphins Chief Executive Officer Mike Dee. “These individuals understand the challenges facing our local students and their expertise and commitment to improving the lives of students is critical to helping us select this year’s honorees.”


Judges will evaluate applications and student nominations 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


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


Sun Life will surprise winning students with their scholarships at separate area award presentations led by Miami Dolphins players, cheerleaders and front office staff, as well as prominent local community members on September 18 and 19. The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is the educational cornerstone program of the Miami Dolphins Foundation.

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