Innovative Educational Program Takes First Place in National Voya Unsung Heroes™ Awards Competition

WINDSOR, Conn., Nov. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), announced that Jane Layman and Richard Love, teachers at Southmoreland Middle School in Scottdale, Pennsylvania, have received the top award in the company's national 2015 Voya Unsung Heroes grant program.

Voya Financial executives award teachers Jane Layman and Richard Love from Southmoreland Middle School in Scottdale, Pennsylvania with the first place prize for the 2015 Voya Unsung Heroes grant program, Friday October 30, 2015

Since the Voya Unsung Heroes program began in 1996, Voya has awarded over $4.5 million to more than 2,000 K-12 educators nationwide in support of their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects and ability to positively influence the children they teach. 

As the top winners, selected from nearly 1,000 applications, Layman and Love will receive $25,000 in addition to an initial $2,000 grant. This will bring their total financial award from Voya up to $27,000. The money will be used to help fund "Shark Tank 7th Grade Style," the award-winning program they are implementing at Southmoreland Middle School. 

"Voya Financial is thrilled to award Jane Layman and Richard Love with the first-place Voya Unsung Heroes prize for their vision to pioneer new methods and techniques in the classroom," said Carolyn Johnson, president of Annuities and Tax-Exempt Markets for Retirement at Voya Financial. "Each day, we help individuals plan, invest and protect their savings to prepare for their financial future, and we are proud to recognize role models like these who inspire learning and prepare students for their future. Teaching is one of the most important professions in the world, and we applaud Jane and Richard as they continue to make a positive, lifelong impact on the children they teach."

Layman and Love's innovative teaching idea, "Shark Tank 7th Grade Style," gives students the chance to be young entrepreneurs and experience what it is like to start their own business. As part of the program, students will develop an idea from scratch, create and design a new product, calculate the financials to market and sell that product, and finally present the product to a group of potential investors exactly like the popular ABC television show Shark Tank. The students will be required to produce at least 10 prototypes of their product, pull together financial statements, build a presentation, and ultimately pitch the idea to a panel of five "sharks" from the community, asking for a "deal" — or percent stake in their company.

"We are very proud of this excellent program that Mrs. Layman and Mr. Love are implementing at Southmoreland Middle School. 'Shark Tank 7th Grade Style' gives our students valuable insights into the world of business and entrepreneurial leadership — teaching them skills in math, writing, design, production, marketing, public speaking and teamwork," said Vincent Mascia, principal of Southmoreland Middle School. "It's truly an honor that Voya Financial selected Mrs. Layman and Mr. Love as its first-place Unsung Heroes award winner, and the extra grant money will go a long way to making this tremendous program even better. Thank you Mrs. Layman and Mr. Love for your great work — you've made everyone at Southmoreland Middle School proud!"

The $27,000 grant will allow Layman and Love to purchase additional equipment to enhance the program, including a laser engraver, 3D printer and computer-controlled cutting machine to give their middle school students access to equipment used by professionals and help them produce commercial quality work.

To learn more about this year's winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the Voya Unsung Heroes website ( Applications for the 2016 Voya Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website until April 30, 2016.   

As an industry leader and advocate for greater retirement readiness, Voya Financial is committed to delivering on its vision to be America's Retirement Company and its mission to make a secure financial future possible — one person, one family, one institution at a time. 

Media Contact:
Joe Loparco
Voya Financial
Office:  (860) 580-2677
Cell:  (860) 462-6525
[email protected]

About Voya Financial®

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), helps Americans plan, invest and protect their savings — to get ready to retire better. Serving the financial needs of approximately 13 million individual and institutional customers in the United States, Voya is a Fortune 500 company that had $11 billion in revenue in 2014. The company had $484 billion in total assets under management and administration as of June 30, 2015. With a clear mission to make a secure financial future possible — one person, one family, one institution at a time — Voya's vision is to be America's Retirement CompanyTM.  The company is equally committed to conducting business in a way that is socially, environmentally, economically and ethically responsible — Voya has been recognized as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies, by the Ethisphere Institute, and as one of the Top Green Companies in the U.S., by Newsweek magazine. For more information, visit or view the company's 2014 annual report. Follow Voya Financial on Facebook and Twitter @Voya.

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SOURCE Voya Financial, Inc.