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HITZ Young Achiever shortlist

Premiership Rugby today announced Sale Sharks’ Joe Benson, Northampton Saints’ Kayleigh Simpson and Exeter Chiefs’ Rachel Slee as the three finalists for the HITZ Young Achiever award supported by Barclays.

Through the power of rugby, HITZ tackles head on some of the greatest challenges facing young people today like crime, mental health challenges and unemployment.

The HITZ Young Achiever award recognises and rewards the young person who, by overcoming a range of challenges, has worked the hardest to progress on their journey back to education, training or employment.

As a national HITZ partner, Barclays is supporting the Young Achiever award, and judge Victoria Lowe admits the task of selecting a winner is harder than ever due to the success of the programme.

Lowe – an assistant vice-president in the bank’s citizenship and reputation division – revealed selecting the entries to be shortlisted was no mean feat.

“Without a doubt the quality of the applications this year was superb and made the judges’ job very difficult,” she said, ahead of the awards night at Barclays HQ in London on 28 November.

“Some of these young adults have extremely challenging circumstances and it’s great to see them achieve their ambition of being in work. We also recognise what they have given back to HITZ along the way by supporting others in the programme or in their community.”

HITZ Awards – Young Achiever shortlist

  • Joe Benson – Sale Sharks
  • Kayleigh Simpson – Northampton Saints
  • Rachel Slee – Exeter Chiefs

Sale Sharks’ Joe Benson has made a remarkable transformation after landing an apprenticeship as a chef. He now works long hours and has major plans to forge a career in the culinary industry. This, alongside his first aid qualification and Level 1 Lifestyle Management provides a bright future for Joe.

Northampton Saints’ Kayleigh Simpson was shortlisted after securing a full-time job whilst being a young carer to her father outside of college. A tumultuous maternal relationship left Kayleigh short of confidence, but she has transformed from an unteachable, confrontational teenager to a shining example of the HITZ programme.

Through the HITZ programme, Exeter Chiefs’ Rachel Slee has turned her life around. Having previously been involved with drugs and alcohol misuse, Rachel has now enrolled at college with the ambition of doing a coaching degree in London. Rachel has become fitter, stronger both mentally and physically, more content and is even helping HITZ tutors with outreach coaching.

Lowe admits she has been impressed by how far the HITZ programme has come in the last few years, with Barclays involved from the very beginning.

She said: “The programme itself has adapted and improved in many respects in the last three years whilst Barclays has been involved, and the strength of applications this year are evidence of how HITZ is truly an employability programme.

“What I love about HITZ is that it supports the young people who wouldn’t get support in other areas.”

This year’s glittering HITZ awards will take place at Barclays HQ on the Monday 28 November, where participants, mentors, and former international rugby stars alike will gather to celebrate the programme’s achievements.

HITZ is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon. HITZ uses rugby to increase young people’s resilience, self-reliance and confidence and gives them the skills to get back into education, apprenticeships and employment.

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