Four incredible individuals from Northampton Saints Foundation will be recognised for their achievements, at the Premiership Rugby HITZ Awards 2023 on 22nd November at Twickenham Stadium.
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.
Participants on the programme learn in an environment different to mainstream education where the core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship are at the heart of the delivery. The results are life-changing.
Shortlisted from Northampton Saints Foundation are three young stars and one member of staff with stories of self-discipline, commitment, courage and kindness. With the joint highest number of shortlisted nominees across the foundations, and other clubs who deliver the programme, these individuals have worked against all odds to improve their own lives or the lives of others within this inclusive environment fondly referred to by its participants as the ‘HITZ family’.
Catherine Deans, Managing Director from Northampton Saints Foundation commented; “All of our nominees are worthy winners, and their journeys are humbling to us all at the Foundation".
"We are incredibly proud of the four individuals who have been shortlisted and for their hard work which has been recognised. We have an amazing team here at Northampton Saints Foundation and we couldn’t deliver the HITZ programme without their support to set young people up for life, which has a positive impact not only on the individual but on our whole community “Catherine Deans, Managing Director from Northampton Saints Foundation
Wayne Morris, Community & CSR Director at Premiership Rugby said: “Congratulations 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 rugby can change lives and the difference HITZ makes. Everyone involved in the programme should feel proud of the impact that they have made, and I look forward to celebrating together at Twickenham in November.”
This season, the HITZ programme celebrates its 15th anniversary. HITZ began in a field in Hackney back in 2008 and has evolved into the education and employability programme that we see today. In that time, it has achieved some huge milestones including over 22,000 enrolments and 83% progressing immediately into education, employment or training after their time with HITZ.
Northampton Saints Foundation Shortlisted Nominees
Shirley Malin - HITZ Officer
Shirley has been nominated for the Champion Award. This award recognises an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to support young people on the HITZ programme in overcoming difficult personal barriers to success. They may be a member of the HITZ team or the local community.
Shirley’s dedication to education, career development, and the well-being of learners is evident in her commitment to enhancing the programme. Being described as ‘the heart of Northampton Saints Foundation’ and a ‘maternal figure’, is a testament to the continuous support Shirley provides to learners. After leaving home at 15, her personal experience inspired Shirley to work with young people of a similar background and utilise her journey to give meaningful guidance. She creates a supportive environment whereby learners feel a sense of purpose and belonging, creating a safe space to thrive and grow. For example, Shirley attends care and Team Around the Family (TAF) meetings to empower learners, ensuring they are involved in discussions and guaranteeing that their voices are heard. These meetings play a crucial role in the success of learners. In addition to this, Shirley’s unique ability to connect with young people and bridge the support gap often lacking at home has directly contributed to the Northampton Saints Foundation being one of the top foundations delivering HITZ nationally.
Mason has been shortlisted for the Physical Activity Award. This award recognises a young person for their progress and development towards leading a more active and healthier lifestyle both on the HITZ programme and in their personal lives.
Mason’s passion for rugby started in his teenage years before he joined HITZ in 2022. With a diverse experience in different sports, he was keen to combine education with his love of rugby, enrolling at a college rugby academy to pursue training for a professional career. After this failed to live up to expectations, he reverted to playing club rugby. Mason credits the sport for providing discipline and a sense of progression, as well as having a positive impact on his social life. Before HITZ, he struggled to make friends in social situations due to health issues preventing him from fully engaging in activities. Added to this were the challenges Mason faced with PTSD stemming from an attack he endured, alongside difficult family dynamics and practical hurdles of making the hour-long walk each way to training. It was at HITZ that he finally found a safe environment and much needed support to improve his well-being, along with the motivation to turn his life around. Inspired as a huge Saints fan he was able to work on his education whilst vastly improving his mental and physical health. Mason’s confidence grew and he has found a renewed belief in his own ability in both education and rugby.
Skye has been shortlisted for the Academic Achiever Award. This award recognises the journey a young person on HITZ has taken in their academic development. It also acknowledges the personal pathway the learner has taken since joining the programme and how far they have come.
Skye's story is both heartbreaking and inspiring, having faced significant challenges from birth including a disrupted home life and entering the care system at just 12 years old. Arriving at HITZ in September 2022, her eagerness to learn was quickly recognised and motivated Skye to gain qualifications, despite previous struggles with mainstream schooling. She found forming positive relationships with peers difficult but felt HITZ was the first programme not to give up on her, breaking a cycle of instability that has proved life-changing. Her renewed purpose and sense of value saw Skye become persistent in achieving academic success, whilst forming positive relationships with both HITZ staff and her peers. The HITZ family are inspired by Skye’s determination despite her journey of adversity and admires the commitment she displays to bettering herself educationally and personally. Skye’s resilience and desire to better herself are fuelled by her commitment to studying.
Bayleigh has been shortlisted for the Young Achiever Award. The Young Achiever Award recognises and rewards a young person who, by overcoming a range of challenges, has worked the hardest to progress on their journey back to education, training, or employment.
Bayleigh has moved to 10 different addresses since the age of five, lived through changing family dynamics and attended five different schools prior to secondary education. Unsurprisingly, Bayleigh has never experienced consistency and familiarity of home as a result. This has impacted his ability to build rapport and relationships with teachers, support workers and peers which has contributed to a negative perception of education. On top of this, his experience of significant trauma early on in life has left a lasting impact. Despite many challenges, Bayleigh has made continuous progress in managing his emotions and memories, enabling him to move forward and carve out a better future for himself. HITZ provides a safe learning environment where he feels included, knowing that peers have also been through challenging upbringings. Unlike mainstream education, the programme is tailored to each learner’s needs, which has been more suited to Bailey’s learning style. Since joining HITZ, Bayleigh has been exposed to a range of career paths through work experience and is now returning for a second year on the programme to pursue an apprenticeship role.