This weekend Premiership Rugby celebrate the amazing effort of our communities, that have dedicated time and effort using the power of sport and the values of rugby to change lives.
Leo, a young person at Northampton Saints Foundation, is just one inspirational person being celebrated during Round 22 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby (14 – 16th April). Over the weekend, all games will be dedicated to the award-winning community programmes run by the 11 Clubs and Club Foundations. In a celebration of how rugby has the power to change lives, every club will showcase the community work taking place, sharing stories of some of the individuals supported on these programmes, and the people who make them possible.
Aged 17, Leo had a tough time as he started secondary school, losing both his dad and nan at just 14 years old understandably had a huge impact. Those concerned around him helped introduce Leo to the Foundation's HITZ programme, helping him turn a corner to a whole new path in life.
A new setting, unlike mainstream school, was suggested after Leo’s behaviour became erratic, and teachers found the unpredictability increasingly unmanageable. Due to his challenging behaviour, Leo moved through different routes including with a social worker, the CIRV (Community Initiative to Reduce Violence) and a spell at behavioural school, but it was trying out HITZ that eventually helped him the fresh start he needed.
Leo immediately took to the HITZ family environment where a tailored approach to his learning and a clear desire to understand him on a personal level helped him to settle. Such was the change, he increased his attendance to his full timetable, even often turning up even if he was not due to attend.
HITZ is the award-winning education and employability programme delivered through the network of Premiership Rugby Clubs and Club Foundations. The programme uses the power of community to support young people not in education, employment or training to change their futures by gaining invaluable qualifications and skills to go forward in life.
Since it started back in 2008, the HITZ programme has helped over 21,000 14–24-year-olds across England. A specific focus on understanding young people and nurturing their goals by listening to what is important to them, along with an environment very different to mainstream education, has resulted in many participants describing HITZ as a family. With positive role models dedicating time to these young people, treating them with respect and being there for them through tough times, HITZ students leave the programme better equipped to navigate their next steps in life and carve out a clear path for independence.
Leo continues to shine. Before long all his work was completed on time and Leo’s contributions in class increased as his confidence grew. Enrichment and sport were his standout activities and Leo would often support others around him earning him greater respect.
Describing how far he’s come Leo says: "HITZ is my safe place and somewhere I feel good about myself. I want to do whatever I can to find ways to get a job and the staff here all help me with that.’’
The initial purpose of getting Leo involved in HITZ was to keep him off the streets and remain safe but now it has grown to be much more. Leo is now studying Level 1 Employability and Functional Skills and working to progress to Level 2, alongside being proactive in finding employment. Leo offers his time during the summer to help with recruitment at open days, continuously looking to improve his CV and seek opportunities to attend interviews to gain confidence in speaking with professionals in industry.
Wayne Morris, Community & CSR Director, Premiership Rugby says: ‘‘Hearing Leo’s story epitomises why we are committed to future proofing programmes like HITZ at Premiership Rugby. We believe everyone can benefit from the core values of rugby and it has the power to change lives. Working together with our teams in local communities HITZ provides opportunities for young people to learn and grow. Taking time to understand them and helping them find their next steps in life is both a privilege and a priority for us.’’
To enquire about the HITZ programme please email [email protected].