Sun Life Financial has named Priscilla Elizalde, a San Diego student, and HANDY Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based nonprofit, the recipients of the company’s first National Sun Life Rising Star Awards.

Elizalde, now a freshman at San Jose State University, was one of 22 at-risk high school students to win a $5,000 Rising Star scholarship from Sun Life last year and be invited to enter the National Sun Life Rising Star essay competition. Elizalde wrote about growing up in an area where gangs, teen pregnancy, drugs and crime are prevalent and how she overcame the odds to make it to college. Her winning essay netted her a $50,000 college scholarship.

HANDY Inc., which helps foster children in Broward County, Fla., won a $50,000 award, along with 22 other nonprofits, from Sun Life last year. The organization then submitted an essay in the National Sun Life Rising Star competition that detailed the nonprofit’s impressive results — 98% of its participants graduate from high school, and 100% of its high school graduates go on to college. As the competition’s winner, the organization will receive $50,000 in grants from Sun Life.

The awards announcement comes ahead of the Sun Life Rising Star Awards National Summit, which will take place Feb. 25-26, in Miami. A forum aimed at addressing the lagging graduation rates of at-risk youth, the summit will be attended by education experts, students and nonprofit representatives, as well as tennis star Venus Williams (pictured above with Rising Star award winners) and Davone Bess, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins.

For more information, visit www.sunliferisingstar.com.