After watching HITZ grow from a bright idea to a life-changing programme, Rugby World Cup winner and Land Rover ambassador Jason Robinson cannot wait to see what will happen in the next 12 months.
Five of the many 1,000s of HITZ participants were honoured at Barclays HQ in London and Robinson presented the Young Ambassador of the Year award, supported by Land Rover – which was won by Bath Rugby's Jorden Honan.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby's multi award-winning programme that uses rugby to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing young people today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment. And Robinson, whose path from a troubled childhood in Leeds to a decorated career on the rugby pitch is well-documented, insists the programme is especially pertinent to him.
"I love HITZ because it's part of my background,” he said. "Growing up in a tough area, council estates, there was quite a lot of stuff going on when I was younger so I can understand and relate to a lot of the things that the young people have gone through.
"That's why I wanted to get involved in this so much – it's a fantastic programme and a great thing that Land Rover's supporting.
"You can just see the confidence start to grow in all of the young people when they take part. We've got so many stories out of this year that I can't wait until next year.
"If we've done this much in one year, then imagine what we will have done five or ten years down the line.”
Robinson has been involved with HITZ for some time, never afraid to lend a hand with the youngsters' development.
"I've been to quite a few events and I've spent quite a lot of time sat down with the guys just listening to their stories,” he said.
"I've been listening to some of the challenges they have and some of the ambitions they have. That's great because we're trying to educate them and give them experiences so that they can learn and take those experiences into the workplace.
"We've also been to the Land Rover plant, which was fantastic. I'd never been before but the kids love cars so it was great going round and seeing this massive factory.
"It was mind-blowing and things like that give them an incentive to do some of the other stuff.
"When you're sat doing maths or English that you don't want to be doing, it's an incentive that if you knuckle down you'll be able to go to various places.
"I've been to Go Ape with them on the high-wires and I'm not great with heights myself, so that was a bit of a challenge for me, never mind them!”
With another exciting year of HITZ just beginning, the British & Irish Lion knows his involvement with the programme is certainly not over.
"I can relate to these young people because life's not easy. That's why the HITZ programme is so great because it gives people a second chance and sometimes a third chance," added Robinson.
"We've seen just what it can do for people at the HITZ Awards and because of everyone investing themselves in it we can see such success.
"I just want to spend more and more time with these guys and encourage them because I think what's happening with this programme is fantastic.”
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. It gives them the skills to get back into education, vocational training, apprenticeships and employment. Please visit hitzrugby.com to find out more.