The Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Financial recently awarded $220,000 in grants and scholarships to a group of rising stars.

Four nonprofit community organizations and four students from Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Lee counties received the Sun Life Rising Star Award for educational achievement and promoting education. Organizational recipients are Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach; HANDY, Fort Lauderdale; Little Haiti Optimist Foundation, Miami; and Quality Life Center of Southwest Florida, Fort Myers. The student winners, who were nominated by the nonprofits, are Joeniseley Mathurin, Delray Beach; Kyandra Dorestin, Plantation; Junior Appo, Miami; James Blanks, Fort Myers

Sun Life Group Market Manager John Hak and Sun Life Employee Benefits Representative Brandon Davis joined Miami Dolphins players, cheerleaders and front office executives to surprise each winning student with a $5,000 scholarship for college, and recognize each nonprofit organization with a $50,000 grant at four awards presentations across South Florida. The recipients also will be honored at a special pre-game on-field ceremony and celebration at the Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens game at Sun Life Stadium on Dec. 7.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is dedicated to improving educational opportunities for students and education-based nonprofit organizations that support them in our nation’s under-served metropolitan areas.  Now in its fifth year, Sun Life recognizes the remarkable achievements of all Sun Life Rising Star Award recipients, and celebrates these exceptional students and organizations for their continued dedication to education.

This year, Sun Life will provide $660,000 in grants, scholarships and other resources to outstanding organizations and students in Boston, Nashville, San Francisco, South Florida and the Tulsa/Oklahoma City area. By the end of 2014, Sun Life Financial will have committed nearly $5 million to 86 students and 79 nonprofit organizations in 16 different cities across the country. Sun Life has committed $1.1 million in South Florida to local education-based nonprofit organizations and underserved area students.

“We’re committed to investing in the health of our communities through initiatives like our Sun Life Rising Star Awards program,” said Dan Fishbein, president of Sun Life Financial U.S. “Today’s student scholarship recipients have overcome great obstacles to achieve success.  These remarkable individuals and the nonprofit organizations that comprise this year’s class of Sun Life Rising Star Award recipients inspire us all and we look forward to seeing the positive impact that the collective efforts of all our Rising Star recipients will have on their local communities and beyond.”

Student recipients also have an opportunity for summer internships at Sunlife’s headquarters in Wellesley, Massachusetts following their freshman year of college. Company officials say the goal is to provide a substantial, meaningful work experience that lays the foundation for future professional success.

“We are honored to join Sun Life for the fifth year to recognize the efforts being made to better serve the lives of under-served youth in South Florida. These exceptional students and community organizations are transforming education in the region, and we are thrilled to be part of it,” said Miami Dolphins President & CEO Tom Garfinkel.

Palm Beach County

Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, Inc. – Founded in 1969, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, Inc. is a nonprofit youth development organization dedicated to promoting the educational, vocational, health, leadership and character of youth in a safe, nurturing environment. The organization strives to enable and assist all young people, especially those who need them most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.


Student Recipient: Joeniseley Mathurin, Atlantic High School

Joeniseley Mathurin works and volunteers at the local school and in her community. She also takes part in extracurricular activities, and participates on the cheerleading team, as well as mentoring younger Boys & Girls’ club members.


Broward County

HANDY – Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantaged Youth, 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: Kyandra Dorestin, Plantation High School

Kyandra Dorestin often speaks at community engagement events and activities as an advocate for foster care and dependency care youth. In addition to her involvement with HANDY, she is a member of Broward County’s Florida Youth Shine Chapter and is actively involved in extracurricular activities such as the dance team, and participates in regular park and beach clean-ups and donation drives.

Miami/Miami-Dade County

Little Haiti Optimist Foundation–Little Haiti Optimist Club is a nonprofit organization established in 2010 by a group of business professionals, community and civic leaders to provide programs to the youth of Little Haiti. Their mission is to make a difference in the lives of youth by providing education, mentorship, athletics, arts and cultural programming.


Student Recipient: Junior Appo, Miami Edison Senior High School

Junior Appo is a member of his high school band and plays three musical instruments. He also serves as treasurer on the student government council, and works as a teller and concierge at the school’s credit union. He was recently awarded a trophy, honoring him as the top concierge in the student finance department.


Lee County

Quality Life Center of Southwest Florida – Quality Life Center (the Q) has served more than 15,000 youth and families in the community. Its mission is to strengthen and instill pride in family and community through programs and services to cultivate self-discipline, self-development, build confidence and promote cultural awareness.


Student Recipient: James Blanks, City of Palms Charter High School

James Blanks serves as President of Quality Life Center’s teen program. He instructs and tutors younger students in the program and participates in its community service projects. James also stays active in extracurricular activities by playing football at his high school, and serving as president of the Kappa League.