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HITZ programme gives Benji clear direction

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A summer holiday course with the Leicester Tigers led to Benji Stevenson signing up for Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme where he gained qualifications and clarity on his career goals.

Benji’s journey started as he in the Tigers education centre last summer, aged 17. He liked the staff and, after becoming familiar with the setting, felt the HITZ programme may suit him better than his previous educational environment.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme, working with more than 2,000 young people aged 14-23 across England every year with the support of the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon. It is delivered with official education partner SCL Education Group by the 13 Premiership Rugby shareholder clubs and uses the power of community alongside rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship to support young people not in education, employment, or training back into education, training, apprenticeships and/or employment.

Benji is one of the inspirational young people that Premiership Rugby will be celebrating during Round 21 of Gallagher Premiership season this weekend.

All matches this weekend will be dedicated to the award-winning community programmes run by Premiership rugby and the clubs, benefiting more than 250,000 people across the UK every year. 

It was Premiership Rugby’s core values that helped Benji to make friends quickly with other HITZ students and they regularly attend matches together.

Surrounded by a supportive community of friends and staff, his attitude became positive and confidence levels grew. Now Benji is well on the way to completing his qualifications in Level 1 BTEC Sport and GCSE Maths.

Tilly Higgs, HITZ officer at Leicester Tigers, says: “Benji always wears a smile on his face, no matter what challenge the programme throws at him, even if it’s double maths on a Monday morning!”

After he experienced the buzz of supporting others to learn in this environment, Benji has now set his sights on a career in sports coaching. He already helps to deliver cricket sessions to the group at HITZ and takes part in weekly work experience alongside Leicester Tigers Foundation staff where he assists with coaching an adult disability group.

Benji says: “I definitely want to look at coaching apprenticeship opportunities within this area after I finish at HITZ. I’ve also got back playing rugby for my old club. HITZ gave me the confidence I needed to re-join, I now train regularly and play games at under-18 level.”

Since its inception in 2008 the HITZ programme has helped more than 20,000 young people like Benji with 75 per cent completing the HITZ learning academy. A huge 80 per cent of participants have expressed improvements in life skills such as confidence and resilience. These skills help 80 per cent of participants who complete the programme to go straight on to education, employment or training.