Inspiring individuals from Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins and Wasps will enjoy time in the spotlight after being nominated for the HITZ Young Achiever award, supported by BT.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme, which works with over 2,000 disadvantaged 14-19 year-olds across England every year.
And to celebrate the hard work put in by countless individuals up and down the country, the 2017 HITZ Awards will take place on November 21 at the BT Centre in a glittering London ceremony.
One of the five gongs on offer is the HITZ Young Achiever award, recognising and rewarding a young person who, by overcoming a range of challenges, has worked the hardest to progress on their journey back to education, training and employment.
The hard task of whittling down the nominees to a final three fell to a group of judges, with Gloucester Rugby’s Tom Phillips, Charlie Hobbs of Harlequins and Wasps’ Jason Kitchin getting the nod.
Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby Community and CSR Director, said: “The judges and I were mightily impressed by each of the nominees – reading them really did bring home the power of the programme to change lives, and also highlights the dedication and commitment of our HITZ teams in supporting these young people to achieve such fantastic things.
“It was very tough afternoon’s judging! In some ways it’s a good problem to have, but it does make the shortlisting process very challenging.
“However, each of our expert judges rose to the occasion, carefully considering each application and challenging each other to do a great job!
“Their commitment really reflects the invaluable input of our partners into HITZ, without whom the programme wouldn’t be possible.”
Tom had a difficult upbringing and was excluded from school in Year 11 due to self-admitted anger issues, ending up sleeping rough after falling out with his adopted mother.
But the HITZ programme offered him stability and routine and Tom never turned up late or had any unexplained absences, since going on to signing onto the public services courses at Gloucestershire College, as well as completing his maths and English qualifications at GCSE level.
Despite being academically able, Charlie became depressed and disenfranchised with mainstream education and left school without qualifications.
He would initially avoid conversations but during the HITZ programme he finally found something he was passionate about; this helped to bring him out of his shell, achieving above 80 per cent in all his final exams and he went on to start a course in personal training at Carshalton College in September.
And the final nominee is Jason, who was expelled from school due to suffering with ASD and ADHD, and soon became depressed after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. But thanks to the HITZ programme Jason has been accepted on to the Prince’s Trust programme and is looking to get back into education in order to achieve his dream of becoming a youth worker.
“This was a particularly difficult category to judge, as we received nine fantastic entries,” Wayne added. “But Tom has overcome some huge challenges in his family life to turn his life around, and embodies the kind of resilience that HITZ is all about.
“Charlie’s story shows just how important self-belief is, and the power of rugby to help build that back up after even the biggest setbacks. Charlie showed real perseverance to motivate himself to carry on with the programme, and his subsequent academic success shows just what he’s capable of.
“Jason really stood out to the judges, even in a very competitive category, with his extraordinary commitment and dedication to the programme.”
This year’s glittering HITZ Awards will take place at the BT Centre on Tuesday 21 November where participants, mentors and rugby stars past and present will gather to celebrate the programme’s achievements. Follow all the action at @HITZRugby