As it enters its second decade, Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme shows no signs of slowing down, and the shortlists for this year’s HITZ Awards demonstrate exactly that.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme which – with the help of its funders Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and Comic Relief – works with more than 2,000 14-18 year olds across England every year.
"Tyrell has made huge progress in terms of both his wellbeing and confidence and he is now able to travel to sessions independently."Saints Foundation Social Inclusion Manager, Jordan Letts
And the Northampton Saints Foundation could be celebrating a double success at this year’s HITZ Awards, which take place at the BT Centre on Wednesday 23 October, after three programme participants were shortlisted for two of the four prizes on offer.
Saints’ HITZ student Tyrell Wilson has been nominated for the Academic Achiever Award, awarded to a student that has showed exceptional commitment to progressing their education.
Meanwhile volunteers Douglas Ferguson and Melvyn Hayward were jointly nominated for the Champion Award, a gong that recognises an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to support a HITZ participant to overcome their personal barriers.
And the Foundation’s social inclusion manager Jordan Letts is incredibly proud to see the trio among the nominees.
“Tyrell came to us finding college incredible challenging – by the time he had reached Year 10 he stopped attending altogether,” he said. “He developed high levels of anxiety, which left him nervous to complete daily tasks and which meant attending college was no longer an option.
“Since joining our HITZ programme, Tyrell has made huge progress in terms of both his wellbeing and confidence. His attitude throughout the course has been impeccable, his attitude towards education has changed completely, and we’re immensely proud to see him nominated for this award.
“Doug and Mel, on the other hand, have become a crucial part of the Northampton HITZ programme – giving up their time to deliver bespoke CV writing and interview skills workshops to HITZ students.
“Their input in the programme has improved our students’ confidence in applying for and attending job interviews, and has so far resulted in three students being offered employment – we're over the moon with their achievements this year, and their nomination for the Champion award is fully deserved.”
2019 HITZ Awards shortlist
Rugby Ambassador Award, supported by Land Rover – Todd Burge (Bath Rugby), Billy Duffy (Exeter Chiefs) and Keanan Tate (London Irish)
Academic Achiever Award, supported by SCL – Stan Groves (Bath Rugby), Cameron Whitehead (Exeter Chiefs) and Tyrell Wilson (Northampton Saints)
Champion Award, supported by Comic Relief – Natalie Sexton (Harlequins), Luigi Laorenza (London Irish) and Douglas Ferguson and Melvyn Hayward (Northampton Saints)
Young Achiever Award, supported by Wooden Spoon – Josh Screech (Exeter Chiefs), Stephen Brandford (Gloucester Rugby) and Dani Tuson (Wasps)
Using rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship, HITZ works to get young people not in education, training or employment (NEET) back into education, training, apprenticeships and/or employment, and is delivered nationally by England’s 13 professional rugby clubs.
In addition to rewarding four outstanding individuals, the 2019 HITZ Awards will also see former and current rugby players in attendance, as well as past participants of the HITZ programme as Premiership Rugby reflects on a successful decade of achievements.
The HITZ programme plays a central role in Premiership Rugby’s ‘Plan To Improve A Million Lives’ and Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby Community and CSR Director, said: “Starting out in 2008 in a field in the London Borough of Hackney, as a rugby intervention programme, HITZ has gone from strength-to-strength.
“Over the past 11 years HITZ has engaged more than 15,000 young people between the ages of 11-19 years. The programme has engaged with young people through a range of means including rugby sessions in local communities and parks, at schools and youth clubs, and at the clubs through the HITZ Learning Academy.
“In 2013, the HITZ Learning Academy (HLA) was created to help alleviate the increased number of young people not in education, training or employment. Since then, more than 2,000 young people have joined the Learning Academy with an impressive 81% progressing onto education, training or employment.
“This year’s HITZ Awards will be a celebration of that, while I believe everyone will be inspired and moved by all of those on our 2019 shortlist as we celebrate everything that HITZ has achieved so far as this programme enters its second decade.”
This year’s glittering HITZ Awards will take place at the BT Centre on Wednesday 23 October where participants, mentors and rugby stars past and present will gather to celebrate the programme’s achievements. Follow all the action at @HITZRugby and join in the conversation using #HITZAwards and #ImproveAMillionLives