Ugo Monye helps Premiership Rugby honour six young individuals

and their outstanding achievements despite the challenges of lockdown

Premiership Rugby today announces the names of their HITZ Heroes 2021, recognising the achievements of six young people who have triumphed over adversity during the last year.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme, working with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year. The aim of HITZ is to help young people classified as NEET (not in education, employment or training) turn their lives around through gaining qualifications and developing their personal, employability and life skills.

The first HITZ Hero to be announced was Exeter Chiefs’ Callum Pope, who made such an impression while studying on the programme that he was later offered a teaching assistant role. Click here to read his story.

Bath Rugby’s Jasmine Ford was the second HITZ Hero to be announced, following her journey from rarely participating in physical exercise to coaching the Bath Ladies Mixed Ability Rugby Team. Click here to read her story.

Tia Roberts of Northampton Saints Foundation’s HITZ programme was the third HITZ Hero announced by Premiership Rugby in recognition of her achievements despite the challenges of lockdown. Tia has gone from strength to strength academically since joining the HITZ programme. Click here to read her story.

Jayden Thompson

Jayden Thompson joined the HITZ programme at Sale Sharks Rugby Club in September 2020 at a time when he was looking for a sense of belonging and support in establishing an achievable career pathway. Jayden quickly became a leader within the HITZ group and embraced all opportunities for work experience. Click here to read his story.

When Darnel Mingle first joined HITZ his Autism made communicating and interacting with others challenging, but as he made friends on the programme his personality shone through and his sense of humour often lifts the whole group. Click here to read his story.

Having endured a tough time at school Lewis Hyatt thrived on the HITZ programme, going on to secure a a full time engineering apprenticeship in January 2021. Click here to read his story.

These awards celebrate the determination and drive of HITZ students to overcome barriers and unlock their own potential, despite the challenges of lockdown.

With the Government reporting unemployment for young people increasing by 11% since the start of the pandemic, and that by the end of last year there were an estimated 800,000 16-24yr olds in the UK classified as NEET, Premiership Rugby’s commitment to supporting and developing individuals like this has only become more steadfast.

Former England International and passionate support of HITZ Ugo Monye, who will be revealing the six HITZ Heroes, said:

“HITZ is a programme very close to my heart. The incredible resilience and determination that these young people have shown during the last year is inspiring. Often, they haven’t always had an easy start in life or the best time at school, and their achievements deserve to be celebrated. I have no doubt that HITZ will be a great stepping stone in life for our six winners who will go on to greater things.”

Wayne Morris, Community and Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby, said:

“To say life can be tough for some young people is a bit of an understatement, and this has only been compounded by the pandemic. Pausing the delivery of HITZ during lockdown was not an option for us and with the help of our partner clubs across the country we have continued to provide much needed support.”

“Our HITZ students have demonstrated a real commitment and resilience to not letting lockdown derail their aspirations. Our six HITZ Heroes are shining examples of how determination coupled with the right support and opportunity can go a long way to changing lives for the better.”

The HITZ students shortlisted for the HITZ Heroes awards in recognition of their progress and achievements to date are:

  • Jordan Heames-Thay, nominated by Wasps Rugby Club
  • Jayden Thompson, nominated by Sale Sharks
  • Dylan Birnie and Tia Roberts, both nominated by Northampton Saints
  • Lee Knowles, nominated by Newcastle Falcons
  • Darnel Mingle, nominated by London Irish
  • Jacob Walker, nominated by Harlequins
  • Lewis Hyatt, nominated by Gloucester Rugby
  • Macauley Couch, Callum Pope and Liam Leaman, all nominated by Exeter Chiefs
  • Rhys Parry, nominated by Bristol Bears
  • Jasmine Ford, nominated by Bath Rugby Club

Supported by the CVC Foundation, Wooden Spoon and SCL Education, nearly 16,000 young people have engaged in the HITZ programme since it was created in 2008.

For more information about The HITZ programme, see:

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