Inspirational youngster Steph Rawlings says she has only just begun her journey after turning her life around and winning the HITZ Young Ambassador of the Year Award supported by Land Rover.
Steph was presented with the gong at Premiership Rugby’s HITZ Awards by Lewis Moody at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf, and it represents another milestone in a remarkable transition for the teenager since joining the HITZ programme at Harlequins.
The award winning HITZ programme tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment. 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.
Steph had been living independently, away from her parents in a YMCA in Stockwell and felt that in this environment doors to her future had been closed off as she was struggling to complete her education.
But since being part of HITZ, she has gained work experience at a Fitness First gym, and through the programme's employment skills training, has a full-time job at a pub in Wandsworth, with plans to develop a career in hospitality.
It’s no surprise then that she ticked all the boxes for the HITZ Young Ambassador of the Year Award supported by Land Rover, which rewards the individual who has done the most to represent the HITZ programme to their peers and in their communities.
It recognises someone who has grown and changed for the better and whose positive attitude has made an impact on those involved in and around the project.
And after bouncing back from her lowest ebb, Steph now believes she can reach her highest goals.
See Steph’s story here
“Before HITZ I was pretty much trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was at a point where I was becoming suicidal, and my frustration and despair was all I was talking about – which is how I found HITZ.
“They said that I could do anything that I needed, so I thought I literally had nothing to lose. They really helped me a lot and I feel like I’ve come so far from where I was.
“I feel like there’s a brighter future for me and there are so many things that I want to do and I’m so excited to do them.
“Rather than laying at home and feeling like ‘why am I here’? I feel like I’m wanted and needed and I’ve moved out of the hostel I was living at.”
Steph has become a role model and has inspired others on the course and insists she will be spreading the HITZ message loud and clear as people up and down the country continue to get their life back on track through the programme.
“The whole journey has been amazing, I’m surprised at how much has happened and what has changed, it’s a miracle really,” she added.
“People need to know that HITZ is here – whatever I can do to let them know, I’ll let them know!”
Even though there could only one winner on the night, each nominee has their own special story to tell.
James Cameron of Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks pair Lacey Marshall and Shannon Slattery and Anthony Chambers through Exeter Chiefs were all shortlisted after being helped to find their voice with HITZ.
The annual HITZ Awards recognise some of the most inspiring young people in England. The HITZ programme delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment. See hitzrugby.com