Two inspirational role models from Northampton Saints Foundation won a national Premiership Rugby HITZ Award last night at an emotional ceremony held at Twickenham Stadium.
In the moving celebration of young learners and mentors involved in the Premiership Rugby flagship education and employment programme, Skye was presented with the Academic Achievement Award and Shirley Lynch with the Champion Award.
Securing two out of the four award wins, Northampton Saints Foundation shone as the achievements of 12 outstanding shortlisted individuals were recognised during the evening. A highlight of the Premiership Rugby calendar, the ceremony showed films of the journeys the shortlisted individuals had been on to be nominated, showcasing the challenges they had overcome along with their hard work and commitment to the HITZ programme. Hosted by Topsy Ojo and attended by Premiership players, including Northampton Saints Prop Emmanuel Iyogun, it was a night filled with emotion, pride and jubilation.
Wayne Morris, Community & CSR Director at Premiership Rugby said: “Congratulations to Skye and Shirley on their much-deserved award wins and indeed to all those shortlisted in this season’s HITZ awards. Over the last 15 years the success rate of the programme speaks for itself, HITZ has helped over 80% of the learners move on positively. The HITZ Awards are an annual celebration of just how much using the power of sport and the values of rugby can change lives with the help of people like Shirley and the difference HITZ makes to young people like Skye. Everyone involved in the programme should feel proud of the impact that they have made, we are delighted for Northampton Saints on their double award win here tonight."
Northampton Saints Foundation HITZ Award Winners
Skye, HITZ Academic Achiever Award Winner 2023
Supported by Central YMCA
Skye was rewarded for her can-do attitude at HITZ despite her heartbreaking story, having faced significant challenges from birth including a disrupted home life and entering the care system. Arriving at HITZ in September 2022, her eagerness to learn was quickly recognised, motivating Skye to gain qualifications after previous struggles with mainstream schooling. Although she found forming positive relationships with peers difficult, Skye felt HITZ was the first programme not to give up on her, breaking a cycle of instability that has proven life changing. The HITZ family have been truly inspired by Skye’s determination along her journey of adversity and admire the commitment she displays to her educational and personal development.
Shirley Lynch, HITZ Champion Award Winner 2023
Supported by CVC
Shirley’s dedication to education, career development, and the wellbeing of learners was recognised at this year’s HITZ Awards. Being described as ‘the heart of the Northampton Saints Foundation’, the unwavering support Shirley continues to provide learners, has directly contributed to the Foundation being one of the top foundations delivering HITZ nationally. After leaving home at 15, Shirley has used her personal experience to connect with young people and bridge the support gap often lacking at home.
She has a unique ability to work with young people of a similar background, utilising her journey to give meaningful guidance in a supportive environment whereby learners feel a sense of purpose and belonging, creating a safe space to thrive and grow.
Also shortlisted were Bayleigh and Mason who the Foundation are incredibly proud of, you can read their reasons for reaching the final HERE.
Catherine Deans, Managing Director at Northampton Saints Foundation, said; “We are hugely proud of Skye and Shirley for winning a HITZ Award, their journeys are humbling to us all at Northampton Saints Foundation. We want to congratulate them, along with Bayleigh and Mason who were shortlisted at this year’s awards, for their hard work and commitment to changing their and others lives for the better. We have an amazing team here at Northampton Saints Foundation and are proud of the positive impact our HITZ programme makes not only on the individuals but on our whole community.”
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme which for 15 years has supported young people to make positive change in their lives. Working with more than 2,000 14–24-year-olds across England every year, the programme uses rugby’s core values to develop invaluable personal, life and employability skills, that help young people get back into education, training, apprenticeships and/or employment.