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Inspiring individuals from Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester Rugby and Harlequins set for HITZ Academic Achiever prize

Inspiring individuals from Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester Rugby and Harlequins set for HITZ Academic Achiever prize

Youngsters from Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester Rugby and Harlequins will have their hard work celebrated after being nominated for the HITZ Academic Achiever award, supported by Premiership Rugby.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme which, with the help of its funders Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and Comic Relief, works with more than 2,000 14-18 year olds across England every year, and is delivered nationally by England’s 13 professional rugby clubs.

Using rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship, HITZ works to get young people not in education, training or employment (NEET) back into education, training, apprenticeships and/or employment, and is delivered nationally by England’s 13 professional rugby clubs.

One of the four gongs on offer is the HITZ Academic Achiever award, supported by Premiership Rugby, recognising the pathway a learner has taken since joining the programme and how far they have travelled during the programme.

It looks for a positive story of how a young person started the programme potentially afraid of/disinterested in/or averse to education and how their hard work and perseverance has taken them to the point where they are now, and hopefully more inclined to continue to learn.

The hard task of whittling down the nominees to a final three fell to a group of judges, with Exeter Chiefs’ Aidan Seal, Bethany Saunders of Gloucester Rugby and Harlequins’ Natalie Sexton getting the nod.

Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby Community and CSR Director, said: “The judges and I were really 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.”

Prior to HITZ Aidan had left school, where he suffered greatly from bullying, with no qualifications. He spent all of his time on his computer, had no friends and his relationship with his family was not good. However, since joining HITZ, Aidan has become a lot more confident and is a leader of the group. He has gone from having no qualifications to achieving a Level 2 in Sport, English and Maths.

Bethany joined HITZ with no qualifications and had missed the majority of year 9, 10 and 11 due to poor performance and behaviour. She also struggled with her mental health, feeling anxious and depressed quite often which led to anger and frustration.

Before HITZ her average attendance rate in her last three years of school was below 20%, yet she managed to achieve nearly 100% attendance during the HITZ course. She has gained a number of qualifications, including Maths, English, Food Hygiene, First Aid and Gym Instructing, and Beth has decided she wants to be a personal trainer and is now completing her Level 3 Gym Instructor Qualification.

Meanwhile, having not enjoyed her time in mainstream education and having to cope with a number of complications and challenges presented by her home life, Natalie joined HITZ with no qualifications.

HITZ gave her the help she needed to drive her academic work, while it also provided an outlet for her to share her feelings and concerns which meant that she no longer had to hold this all in, whilst also enabling her to use this experience to help others on the programme. Natalie has overcome her learning needs as well as a tumultuous few years in her family to not only pass the course but has also become the first apprentice Harlequins have ever recruited from the HITZ programme.

“This was a particularly difficult category to judge, as we received some fantastic entries,” Wayne added. “But the final three do highlight the amazing improvements our HITZ learners go through on the programme.

“Aidan has helped turn his life around through HITZ and now the future is a lot brighter for him, while Bethany has rediscovered her love for learning and education through the programme.

“And Natalie really stood out to the judges, even in a very competitive category, with her extraordinary commitment and dedication to the programme.”

This year’s glittering HITZ Awards will take place at the BT Centre on Wednesday 17 October where participants, mentors and rugby stars past and present will gather to celebrate the programme’s achievements. Follow all the action at @HITZRugby

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