Greg Camarillo describes his family as “very big on education.”

Everyone in his family, the 28-year-old Miami Dolphins wide receiver said, has dedicated their professional lives to education.

“Although I play football, I do support education and delivering the message that it is valuable to our children,” he said.

Camarillo, in support of “providing an opportunity to encourage someone to advance his or her education,” will participate as a judge for the Sun Life Rising Stars Awards program.

The program, sponsored by Sun Life Financial, Inc. and the Miami Dolphins Foundation, will award a total of $220,000 in grants and scholarships to South Florida non-profit organizations and high school seniors this year, according to Veronica Arcila, an account manager for Sun Life.

Of the $220,000, four non-profits each will be awarded a grant of $50,000, Arcila said, adding that each non-profit will have the opportunity to nominate one student to receive a $5,000 scholarship for advanced education.
Nationwide, Arcila said, $1 million in grants and scholarships will be awarded.

Developed to recognize and provide resources to at-risk high school students around the country, the program, in its first year, extended to South Florida in January, Arcila said.

The program is also taking place in Detroit, San Diego, New York, Seattle and Boston.  These cities, according to a 2009 Editorial Projects in Education Research Center study, all have graduation rates that fall below the national average.

“It was an easy synergy between our organizations,” Arcila said about Sun Life’s partnership with the Dolphins.

“We [Sun Life] are newer to the community and like the Dolphins, have a passion for philanthropy. We both have a passion to give back to the South Florida community and education is important,” Arcila said. 

And, Arcila continued, with a name as recognizable as the Miami Dolphins, “our program would make a stronger impact.”

To be considered for the grants, Arcila ex-plained, an organization has to meet certain criteria, including being registered as a non-profit that works with children under age 21 in the areas of education engagement and/or increasing high-school graduation rates.

In addition to grant monies, each organization will receive training, materials and the curriculum necessary to develop and provide financial education for its youth.

Students selected to receive scholarship monies must be active in their communities, Arcila said, adding that “they must choose to lead others, show a commitment to education, and have the ability to overcome obstacles.”

The students, Arcila said, must also have plans to pursue higher education.

Growing up in a family that stresses the importance of education, Camarillo said, his participation as a judge in the program “gives me a chance to really be a part of the community.”

A mechanical engineering major at Stanford University, Camarillo’s mother is a retired middle school counselor. His father is a Stanford professor. His siblings, a brother and sister, are also educators.

“My parents have always encouraged me to work hard in school and sports,” Camarillo said. “Education is seen as a value in my family.”

And being a part of the program, Camarillo said, “is giving others a chance for an education.”

For more information about the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program, visit Applications are being accepted through July 23, and can be downloaded at