HITZ Awards: Community Impact Finalists

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HITZ, Premiership Rugby’s education and employability programme.

THE TIME and commitment given by three young people from Gloucester Rugby, London Irish and Wasps is being celebrated after they were nominated for the HITZ Community Impact award, supported by Wooden Spoon.

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. To celebrate the hard work put in by countless individuals up and down the country, the 2017 HITZ Awards will take place on 21 November at the BT Centre in a glittering London ceremony.

One of the five awards on offer is the HITZ Community Impact award, recognising an individual’s contribution through volunteering and service, looking at their impact in the community and on themselves. And this year’s nominees are Gloucester Rugby’s Maddi Eager, Lewis Cox of London Irish, and Stanna Shaylor from Wasps.

The hard task of whittling down the nominees to a final three fell to a group of judges, with Wooden Spoon’s Sarah Webb, among them and acknowledging that it wasn’t an easy job.

“I was extremely impressed with all of the nominees across all of the categories and many of them could have easily been nominated in multiple categories which is a credit to the programme and their HITZ Officers for enabling the youngsters to flourish and grow,” said Sarah, Acting CEO at Wooden Spoon.

“Whittling the nominees down to a final three was by far the hardest task for us all as judges.

“We all agreed that all of them could be winners so we had to really push ourselves to look at the stand out achievements and efforts of the nominees.

“HITZ never fails to impress us as a programme. The officers and all of the people who work on the programme have to evolve and adapt constantly to support the youngsters’ very different needs and requirements.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approaches to the children and young people on the course and this is evidenced in their ability to grow and learn throughout the programme.”

The finalists

Maddi experienced severe anxiety and low self-esteem due to isolation caused by Blount’s Disease (growth disorder of the tibia), leading her to drop out of school during her A-levels.

But her love of rugby led her to the HITZ programme where she has learnt tools to help her overcome her physical, social and mental barriers, and has gone on to run charity events, work in a care home and offer advice for pupils struggling with school.

Lewis arrived at the HITZ programme at London Irish as a very quiet, introverted young man, only for his behaviour, communication skills and attitude to go from strength-to-strength.

It led to him running a charity event that raised money for the Brittle Bone Society, a charity close to his heart, while he has also embarked on army training.

And the final nominee is Stanna, who suffered from mood swings and a lack of motivation that saw her leave secondary school with no qualifications above a grade D, as well as an altercation resulting in a criminal conviction. But the HITZ programme at Wasps provided her with stability and her attitude and persona has changed dramatically as she has become an ambassador for the programme whilst also delivering Coventry Sports Foundation’s summer holiday camps.

“It was evident that Lewis has had to overcome numerous challenges in his life yet he has the capacity, drive and vision to look at the needs of others in the community. His fundraising efforts for others in need is outstanding,” Sarah added.

“Stanna should be very proud of herself for being recognised again a year on, we all remembered her and her story a year later and were impressed with her commitment to the programme.

“Maddi’s determination and drive was clear against all odds. It was really impressive that she has gained so much more than she thought from the game and is looking at the wider knock-on effects such as nutrition.”

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. You can follow the action on the night at @HITZRugby

Read on to find out about the HITZ Scheme’s Big Impact.