Relon Thompson called on youngsters across the country to get involved in Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme after landing a top award at the inaugural HITZ Awards.
The 18-year-old – a member of Northampton Saints HITZ programme – was handed the Young Achiever award at the ceremony at Barclays HQ in London.
The gong, supported by Barclays, recognises a young person who has overcome barriers to achieve personal success and who has attained the greatest positive progression in their personal journey returning to education, training and employment.
Relon admitted that his life has been turned around since discovering the power of HITZ.
“HITZ is a great programme and it’s great to see so many people here celebrating it as it’s a very big part of my life now,” he said.
“I’ve grown so much since I’ve been with HITZ. I’ve seen myself turn from this little kid who followed the wrong people, to a mature adult who can make the right decisions.
“I know I should act my age and not my shoe size, and HITZ has helped me see that. I will be involved with this programme for as long as it takes for everybody to see that life on the streets is not good.
“Everyone should jump on board, 100 per cent! It can be tough to make the leap to get involved but it’s been the most welcome thing in my life.
“There are other youth projects that I’ve been involved with which did not work out, but HITZ is honestly the real deal.”
Saracens lock Hayden Smith who presented Relon with his award was impressed with Relon.
“He’s a fantastic kid who has obviously been through an incredible amount of hardship, come out on the other side of it and is using that in a positive way to help himself and others,” said Smith. “It’s amazing.”
“I was lucky enough to be at the very first HITZ event in a park in Hackney, and it’s humbling to see some of the kids who were there on the very first sessions now running HITZ sessions themselves.
“To see that transformation in those individuals who have gone through the programme is really exciting and makes the whole thing worthwhile.”
Paulette Cohen, head of global programmes at Barclays, was part of the judging panel that awarded Relon the Young Achiever accolade.
“It was extremely difficult to choose between the nominees for the Young Achiever award because all the young people shortlisted had accomplished so much,” said Cohen.
“But Relon was a truly deserving winner. He’s now studying as a sound engineer and has turned his life around, and in his own words he is a leader now not a follower.
“HITZ is part of Barclays’ broader goal to change 5 Million Young futures, and Relon’s story highlights why it’s so important that young people can access support while developing the skills and confidence to improve their chances in life.”
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.