An inspirational young person from Sale Sharks was amongst the four winners honoured at the annual HITZ Awards.
A highlight of the Premiership Rugby calendar, the achievements of 12 outstanding individuals were recognised at the emotional ceremony hosted by former England and London Irish Winger Topsy Ojo and attended by Professional players and community staff from across the Premiership.
Sale Sharks’ Bunni Ledwards was presented with the Young Achiever Award, supported by Wooden Spoon.
This recognises and rewards a young person who, by overcoming a range of challenges, has worked the hardest to progress on their journey back to education, training or employment.
Bunni joined HITZ disillusioned with education, believing there was no support for her to gain qualifications in a mainstream setting. She arrived at HITZ lacking self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.
After starting on the programme, Bunni started to slowly increase her engagement in learning as she recognised those around her were there to support her. With this support she found the courage to visit her GP to address her declining mental health. In time she felt strong enough to complete work placements with the Sale West Community Shop and Food Bank. With support from a mentor, a pathway to employment became clear to her and more importantly she had the confidence to take the next step. Bunni worked with one of Sale Sharks Foundation’s employment partners, OCS and secured a customer service role with the organisation.
Bunni now aspires for similar outcomes in her personal life too. She plans for independence by learning to drive and by seeking a safe supportive relationship. Her courage, alongside an understanding of the impact of asking for help, meant her life turned a corner and she continues to take steps towards a happy fulfilled life.
Bunni Ledwards, Sale Sharks winner of the Young Achiever Award, said:
‘’Winning this award is both amazing and exhilarating. I’ve never won anything in my life so to be able to make my mum proud by winning this tonight is so special. It feels good to know that my hard work and effort has been noticed by everyone at HITZ. I love how much the staff with Sale Sharks HITZ’ programme cares and this award motivates me more than ever to add new skills to my achievements.’’
Also shortlisted for the Champion Award – Kev Mannion. Recognising Kev’s support for HITZ, going over and above the call of duty, providing students with unwavering empathy, patience and understanding. Kev is a Sharks Academy Coach with a genuine passion to help young people, not only helping with educational challenges but also guiding learners through additional health and fitness sessions to improve wellbeing.
Alison Warwood, the CEO of Sale Sharks Foundation, who was amongst guests celebrating this evening, said;
“Huge congratulations to Bunni and Kev. They are proof that HITZ works. In supporting young people to gain qualifications it teaches them to respect themselves and others, alongside giving them the confidence to be themselves. HITZ is a fantastic vehicle to channel education through and our rugby family, with the vital support from people like Kev, gives young people like Bunni a sense of belonging and hope for the future. Tonight has been incredibly special and we are very proud of them both.”
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme, supporting young people to make positive changes in their life. Working with more than 2,000 14-24 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. Supported by CVC, Wooden Spoon and East Head Impact, with Central YMCA as our Official Education Provider, HITZ is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby’s 13 shareholder clubs and has supported over 21,000 young people since it started in 2008.