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Trio in line for HITZ Champion Award

Trio in line for HITZ Champion Award

The time and commitment given by three people from Exeter Chiefs, London Irish and Wasps is being celebrated after they were nominated for the HITZ Champion award, supported by Comic Relief.

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 Champion Award, supported by Comic Relief, recognising an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to support HITZ participants to overcome their personal barriers.

The hard task of whittling down the nominees to a final three fell to a group of judges, with Exeter Chiefs’ Lewis Griffiths, Ross Ferguson of London Irish and Wasps’ Mark Leeson getting the nod.

Olly Dawson, senior partnership manager, Sport For Change, at Comic Relief said: “Having been a grant manager for the HITZ programme for a number of year, in fact, for almost all of the ten that it has existed, I have seen at first-hand how the programme has developed over that time and the impact that it has made.

“I think that through the learning that has been generated there is a good understanding of how rugby can be used as a tool for social change, and what the sport brings that perhaps other sports do not.

“It is incredible to see the difference that the work has made to so many disadvantaged young people, and the programme is a great example of how sport has the power to change lives. Long may it continue.”

Lewis’ difficult upbringing and the fact that rugby got him back on the right track, changing his life for the better, has given Lewis the extra drive to support every student to recognise and reach their potential.

His positive outlook and supportive nature furnishes the students with the confidence and belief to achieve their aspirations. He is passionate about the programme, cares about the students and gives them experiences they may not have previously had before.

Ross is the General Manager at the Holiday Inn, Shepperton, and has been able to offer every student on the London Irish HITZ programme the opportunity to gain valuable work experience at his hotel. The participants were able to work in every department, shadowing and being mentored by staff enabling them to learn first-hand from experts in their field.

Meanwhile, Mark is a Firefighter at Bickenhill Fire Station and is passionate about working with young people from underrepresented backgrounds, helping to support them with changing their lives for the better. His delivery on the programme is most often done out of work hours, as he wanted to give his time to support the learners when he could.

“I was extremely impressed with the level of the nominees,” Olly added. “All of them have been hugely supportive of the HITZ programme and of the young people taking part.

“Many have given up a lot of their own time to support the programme and have to juggle their work commitments to do so.

“Some of the nominees are previous participants of HITZ and this is excellent to see. If I was a judge for the award I’d have wanted to recommend all of the nominees! Good luck to the judges.”

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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