Exceptional South Florida
Students, Representatives of College Summit Florida, HANDY, Inc., Urban Youth Impact & Boys & Girls Clubs of Lee County
Join Pro Athletes & Corporate & Education Leaders to Tackle Lagging High School Graduation Rates at
Sun Life Rising Star National Summit
On February 25th & 26th,
Venus Williams and Miami Dolphins Chad Pennington & Davone Bess were guest speakers at a national education summit sponsored
by Sun Life Financial and the Dolphins. The summit – the inaugural Sun Life Rising Star Award National Summit
brought in students, education leaders, and nonprofit reps from across the country to discuss “at-risk” youth
Rising Star students & supporting nonprofits; Tennis Champion Venus Williams; Miami Dolphins Chad Pennington & Davone
Bess; Sun Life US President Wes Thompson, prominent education leaders discussed critical education issues facing nation’s
Coley of Miami, nominated by College Summit Florida; LaGary Roberson of Fort Lauderdale, nominated by HANDY, Inc.; Miranda
Stackhouse of Palm Beach, nominated by Urban Youth Impact; Koa Sua of Cape Coral, nominated by Boys & Girls Clubs of Lee
County; and 18 other outstanding students from across the country joined an all-star line-up of professional athletes, front-line
nonprofit organizations serving at-risk youth, corporate leaders and nationally recognized educators at Sun Life Stadium in
Miami, FL this weekend to address critically important education issues affecting high school students at the Sun Life Rising
Star Awards National Summit. The students and community-based organizations who advocate on their behalf were invited to participate
as representatives of the inaugural class of Sun Life Rising Stars, having been recognized by the leading financial services
organization in 2010 for overcoming the odds by furthering their education.
Sun Life developed
the Summit to provide a forum for education stakeholders to discuss the state of public education in America’s major
metropolitan areas, tackle socio-economic issues causing the precipitous decline in graduation rates among urban high school
students, and present new ideas and approaches that will ensure at-risk youth receive the requisite resources and information
to finish high school and continue their education.
Tennis Champion and Miami Dolphins Limited Partner Venus Williams; Dolphins Wide Receiver Davone Bess; Quarterback Chad Pennington;
and Vice President Nat Moore; Sun Life US President Wes Thompson and Vice
President and Head of US Marketing Priscilla Brown represented the Miami Dolphins Foundation and Sun Life
Highlights included the students’ grand entrance into
Sun Life Stadium via the Dolphin’s famed ‘Orange Carpet’ as they were applauded by Bess, Pennington, the
Dolphins front office and cheerleaders; a special welcome reception in the Dolphins locker room where they received personalized
Dolphins team jerseys; and inspirational speeches by Thompson, Moore and the Dolphins players. Williams shared her personal
story of overcoming the odds as an at-risk student in her keynote address.
In 2010, Sun Life Financial provided more than $1 million
in grants and scholarships through the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program, rewarding students and their supporting nonprofits
in Boston, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, and South Florida. Each nonprofit organization received a
$50,000 grant, along with training, materials and curriculum infrastructure to develop and provide financial education for
youth in its program. Each student received a $5,000 scholarship to help finance their post-secondary education.
Priscilla Elizalde, a San Diego, California graduate of Kearny
High School’s Construction Tech Academy, and HANDY, Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Florida nonprofit organization, won the
inaugural national award for the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program, collecting an additional $50,000 toward college tuition
and HANDY, Inc., an additional $50,000 in grants.
The Sun Life Rising Star Awards is the educational cornerstone
program of the Miami Dolphins Foundation, devoted to providing and supporting signature Education, Health, Youth Athletic
Programs and Volunteer Activities that inspire and engage communities throughout Florida.
Pictured here from
left are Stackhouse, Sun Life Senior Philanthropy Program Manager Kaitlin Jaquez, Roberson,
Tennis Champion and Miami Dolphins Limited Partner Venus Williams, Sun Life VP
& Head of Marketing Priscilla Brown, Sua and Kirk Brown of HANDY, Inc.