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NOMINEES FOR THE 2022 PREMIERSHIP RUGBY HITZ AWARD ANNOUNCED

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On Tuesday, November 22nd, a group of incredible young people and mentors will gather at Twickenham Stadium to celebrate their accomplishments at the Premiership Rugby HITZ Awards.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability program, assisting young people in making positive life changes. The programme, which works with over 2,000 14-24-year-olds across England each year, is supported by CVC, Wooden Spoon, and East Head Impact, with Central YMCA serving as the program’s official education provider.

The HITZ awards 2022 honor individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary self-discipline, commitment, and courage. They have worked against all odds to better their own or others’ lives within the welcoming environment of the HITZ family.

Participants in the program learn in an environment that is different from traditional education, with rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship at the center of the session delivery. The outcomes are life-changing.

“We had an outstanding field of nominees submitted this year, all deserving of recognition,” said Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby Community and CSR Director and one of the judges. The stories we discussed were incredible in their determination, resilience, and courage.

“Seeing the progress and impact these individuals have made motivates us to keep the HITZ program a priority.” It is a tried-and-true program that improves the lives of young people all over the country.

“We have never been more committed to leveraging the inclusive rugby family to put our younger generation on a path to a brighter future and greater financial independence.”

SHORTLISTS FOR 2022

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AWARD – This award recognizes a young person’s progress and development toward leading a more active and healthier lifestyle, both on the HITZ program and in their personal lives.

Kaci Leworthy, Exeter Chiefs – Living with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Kaci struggled in school and college but thrived at HITZ’s inclusive community. She secured a place at Topsham RFC Ladies by being fearless in rugby and committed to her fitness goals. Kaci is now pursuing a career as a PE teacher in order to inspire the next generation of young women.

Gloucester Rugby’s Elliot Lawrence – Elliot’s fitness was at an all-time low, and his learning difficulties were leading to school disengagement, so he turned to HITZ. He gained knowledge and self-belief after embracing physical activity, and his improved mental strength led him to volunteer for rugby-based sports. Elliot’s life prospects have improved dramatically as a result of significant weight loss and enrollment in coaching courses.

Wasps’ Owen Thomas – Owen found life difficult and difficult to control after going through his parents’ divorce in secondary school and frequently experiencing panic attacks. With time and understanding from HITZ, he discovered coping mechanisms and thrived on the field, returning to match fitness. Work experience and England coaching courses have landed him an apprenticeship with a sports organization.

ACADEMIC ACHIEVER AWARD – recognizes a young person’s academic development journey while on HITZ. It acknowledges the path a learner has taken since joining the program and the distance they have traveled.

Fallan Barlow, Gloucester Rugby – Fallan went through traumas that caused her to hit rock bottom after a difficult time at school due to her ADHD and an unstable home life. Her erratic behavior was supported, managed, and coping mechanisms were implemented when she arrived at HITZ as a vulnerable young person. Her confidence grew quickly, as did her friendships and qualifications.

Newcastle Falcons’ Josh Evans – Josh dropped out of school with no GCSEs and no desire to attend college due to his poor mental health. Josh was inspired to become a firefighter like his uncle.

Northampton Saints’ Mia Keogh – Mia arrived at HITZ emotionally and educationally lost, but she remained motivated and eager to complete her academic qualifications after a long period of absence. She thrived socially and studied, becoming the most successful academic participant in the Northampton Saints Foundation’s history.

CHAMPION AWARD – honors an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to assist HITZ participants in overcoming personal obstacles. They could be from the HITZ team or the local community.

Exeter Chiefs’ Andy Bassett – Andy has been able to offer his skills to create apprenticeship opportunities specifically for HITZ learners as the owner of three businesses with an empathetic nature. He not only creates career paths, offers job opportunities, and assists in securing employment, but he has also looked after the well-being of young people and initiated initiatives to provide critical equipment.

Northampton Saints’ Marcel Binley shares his knowledge, learnings, and resources as a business owner. At HITZ, Marcel has developed a nationally recognized qualification for young people. He pledges his time, money, and team to provide opportunities for lifelong learning that will lead to employment and financial independence.

Sale Sharks’ Kev Mannion – As part of his teaching assistant training, Kev supports students with unwavering empathy, patience, and understanding. He is a Sharks Academy Coach with a genuine desire to assist children and young people, not only with academic challenges but also with additional health and fitness sessions to improve wellbeing.

YOUNG ACHIEVER AWARD – recognizes and rewards a young person who has worked the hardest to progress on their journey back to education, training, or employment by overcoming a variety of challenges.

Sale Sharks’ Bunni Ledwards – Bunni turned to HITZ after becoming disillusioned with education and believing there was no support for her to gain qualifications in a mainstream setting. She lacked self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence. Her bravery, combined with an understanding of the consequences of asking for help, resulted in her life turning a corner and her securing an apprenticeship that could lead to full-time employment.

Ryan Laffin, Exeter Chiefs – Ryan struggled with education after navigating a turbulent time in care for the previous ten years. Exclusion from school and severe learning difficulties harmed his chances in life. Once at HITZ, he began to engage, improve social interactions, and regulate his anxiety in order to regain independence while volunteering in the community.

Kieran Bolton, Wasps – Kieran arrived at HITZ alone, shy, and determined to change his life after being in care since he was six years old. Kieran’s confidence grew significantly as a result of his acceptance of the structured routine, participation in the classroom, and sense of purpose. In a short period of time, he advanced in terms of qualifications and accomplishments.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability program, assisting young people in making positive life changes. Every year, the program works with over 2,000 14-24 year-olds across England to develop the personal, life, and employability skills of young people who are not in education, employment, or training. HITZ is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby’s 13 shareholder clubs and has supported over 21,000 young people since it began in 2008. It is supported by CVC, Wooden Spoon, and East Head Impact, with Central YMCA as our Official Education Provider.

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