Pentland up for national HITZ award

Wednesday 10 November 2021 Written by: Adam

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme, supported by the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon, and delivered with our education partner, Newcastle College. HITZ works with more than 2,000 14–23-year-olds across England every year, and is delivered nationally by England’s top rugby clubs.

Using the core values of rugby, which includes teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship, HITZ aims to get young people back into work, education, training and/or employment.

The HITZ Young Achiever Award recognises and rewards a young person who, by overcoming a range of challenges, has worked hard to progress on their journey back to education, training or employment. It is someone who has persevered, despite setbacks; grown personally and socially, despite initially lacking confidence; and made new friends despite lacking personal or social skills. It is someone who has truly embraced the experience of the HITZ programme, with the support and help from both tutors and delivery staff to forge a more positive future for themselves.

The nominees shortlist was whittled down to three by the judges, with Bears’ Charlie Hartley, Chiefs’ Callum Pope and Falcons’ Michael Pentland making the final cut.

Michael’s loss of two close male family role models had such a detrimental effect that at his lowest he struggled with thoughts of suicide. Michael credits HITZ with giving him the confidence to keep going. Talking to his tutors and peers about his experiences and mental health challenges helped him find focus and direction.

This and his high standards of work and polite nature earnt him an apprenticeship at Falcons as a community coach. Having got a taste for a more positive future, Michael wants to complete other qualifications available via the HITZ programme and aspires to run his own boxing gym one day.

And after judging the three nominees’ stories, Sarah Webb, CEO of Wooden Spoon, expressed her belief that they are all worthy of recognition following their impressive achievements.

“For us, it’s really important that we’re helping young people through a journey so they’re not just coming to a project and leaving it with no personal growth,” explained Webb.

“Judging the shortlist is both one of the best parts of my job and the hardest. All three of them, Michael, Charlie and Callum, are deserved winners because of how they’ve handled the adversity in their lives and how they’ve tried to better themselves.

“I think it’s really important that we recognise within the Young Achiever Award that there’s all sorts of different types of achievement we’re looking at. It might be academic, but it’s also very much to do with their own personal growth journey.”

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship employability and education programme, supporting young people to make positive changes in their life. Working with more than 2,000 14 to 23-year-olds across England every year, the programme uses rugby’s core values to develop the personal, life and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Supported by the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon, and delivered with official education partner SCL Education Group, HITZ is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby’s 13 shareholder clubs and has supported nearly 20,000 young people since it started in 2008.

Melanie Magee, head of foundation at the Newcastle Rugby Foundation, said: “The HITZ scheme helps so many young people in a really positive way, and Michael is just one example of the outstanding work going on around the country.

“His nomination for this national award is testament to the journey he has been on, and recognition for the many people who have played a part in such a beneficial programme as HITZ.”