Sun Life Financial, Miami Dolphins Recognize Florida Nonprofits and Four College-bound High School Seniors as Sun Life Rising Stars

Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) and the Miami Dolphins today announced South Florida’s Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners. The financial services company awarded a total of $220,000 in scholarships and grants to four youth-oriented nonprofits and to an exemplary student nominated by each organization. Now in its second year, the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program aims to address low high school graduation rates in large urban school districts by providing financial resources and education to students and nonprofit organizations committed to increasing success in high school and beyond, as well as promoting financial literacy as a means to achieve life-long financial wellness and stability.


Each winning organization will receive a $50,000 grant, while each student nominee will receive a $5,000 Sun Life Rising Star scholarship towards financing a college education. In addition to monetary support, Sun Life will collaborate with the organizations and students to increase financial literacy with curriculum and educational resources. In 2011, Sun Life will invest more than $1 million to outstanding students and nonprofit organizations affiliated with large urban school districts across the country, including Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and South Florida.

“Access to quality education for all is critical to our country’s future, and that’s why it’s a priority for Sun Life to continue investing in and improving the lives of students who are committed to furthering their education,” said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. “Our partnership with the Miami Dolphins has enabled us to develop a special relationship with the South Florida community and we are proud to join the Dolphins Foundation in rewarding our amazing Rising Star students for their perseverance in the face of adversity. It is our firm belief that they need only opportunity and a little support to rise to their potential.”


Sun Life surprised winning students with their $5,000 scholarships at four separate area award presentations led by Miami Dolphins players including star wide receiver Davone Bess, cheerleaders and front office staff, as well as prominent local community members. Bess played a significant role in last year’s program where he addressed students at the surprise award presentations and the inaugural Sun Life Rising Star Awards National Summit, volunteered to serve as a mentor to one winning student, and helped select the scholarship recipients. The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is the educational cornerstone program of the Miami Dolphins Foundation.


“We are thrilled to once again join Sun Life 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.


The winners were selected by a nine-person judging panel comprised of some of South Florida’s foremost education and community leaders, philanthropists, financial advisors, city officials and local activists based on the following criteria:


  • Nonprofit’s commitment to developing and promoting skills that directly translate to educational success for students 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 2011 South Florida Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners include:

Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County – Take Stock in Children focuses on promoting self-worth, academic success and personal responsibility for financially at-risk students through mentoring, student advocacy and guaranteed post-secondary scholarships.


Student Recipient: Amanatulla Khan, Boca Raton Community HS

  • Amanatulla’s parents left their native country, Bangladesh, to provide him with a better life and education in the U.S. and Amanatulla is determined to succeed financially so his parents can return home and retire.
  • He maintains a 5.0 GPA and plans to attend MIT to study theoretical physics, hoping to someday use his technological skills and knowledge to help others in need.
  • Amanatulla has worked as a tutor with Caregiving Youth, a nonprofit that provides services to kids with ill or disabled parents.
  • Amanatulla’s interests extend to state politics; he interned at a congressman’s office in Boca Raton, where he performed daily duties and assisted with immigration issues.

Urban League of Broward County, Inc. The Urban League of Broward County is an affiliate of the National Urban League, the nation’s largest and oldest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans.


Student Recipient: Miles Mallinson, McFatter Technical HS

  • Miles has been active in the National Achiever’s Society for five years, where he serves as a mentor and role model for other students.
  • Miles works three part-time jobs to save money for college, all while maintaining a high GPA in AP and Honors courses. He is dedicated to saving and financial responsibility and considers a college degree the next step in his successful future.
  • He volunteers tirelessly, fundraising for the March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House and United Way of Broward County. He is a peer counselor in his high school and a volunteer X-Games coach for younger, disadvantaged students.


The Education Fund – The Education Fund’s Citi Postsecondary Success Program is a support network committed to increasing access to post-secondary education for economically-disadvantaged and first-generation students.

Student Recipient: Sarah Moreno, Miami Beach Senior HS

  • Sarah has volunteered with the Citi Postsecondary Success Program, where she created and launched an initiative called Get Ready (Receptive Educational Advancement During Youth).The program teaches K-12 students to focus on post-secondary education, beginning as early as kindergarten.
  • She volunteers as an advisor for other students, helping run the program’s college clubs and recruiting others to fill her place when she graduates. Her passion has resulted in the growth of college club attendance and has enriched her school’s college-going culture.


The Guadalupe Center What started as a soup kitchen to feed impoverished families in Immokalee, Florida, has grown into a strong nonprofit dedicated to breaking the poverty cycle through educational, social and other support programs and resources for families.

Student Recipient: Mariela Vega, Immokalee HS

  • Mariela volunteers for three hours every day at the Guadalupe Center, tutoring struggling kindergarten, first and second grade students.
  • She is active on the executive board of her high school’s Better Education Through Achievement Club (BETA).
  • Her goal is to attend the University of Florida and become a successful plastic surgeon, traveling to third world countries to treat children born with facial deformities.
  • She plans to return to her community after medical school and create a scholarship foundation to give back to her community.


All Sun Life Rising Star Awards organizations and students will be recognized at a special pre-game on-field ceremony and celebration at the Miami Dolphins-Buffalo Bills game at Sun Life Stadium on November 20.


In addition to Bess, 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; City of Miami Protocol Officer Dr. Wallis Tinnie; and Jeanette Sparano, wife of Miami Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano.


For more information on the Sun Life Rising Star Awards, please visit

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