World Cup winner Rachael Burford admits she can’t help but be inspired after presenting a woman from Rochdale with a national award for her community work.
Katie McGrory had regularly changed schools and had fallen into the wrong crowd before she attended Aviva Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme.
Now the former St Anne’s Academy pupil is working as a hairdresser, is contemplating going to university and is helping other people who attended the same HITZ programme run by Sale Sharks.
And at the HITZ Awards in Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf, London, on Thursday Katie was presented with the Community Impact Award by England women’s rugby star Burford.
“Katie is a real role model because she really got herself going and is now a full-time hairdresser,” Burford said.
“But the biggest thing for me when it comes to Katie is that she is still volunteering her own time to support other people and show them that there are other opportunities and possibilities to turn their lives around.
“To hear she is still giving up her free time to help others is really inspiring.”
Premiership Rugby’s multi award-winning HITZ programme utilises rugby to increase young people’s resilience, self-reliance and confidence and has been providing them with the skills to get back into education, apprenticeships and employment since 2009.
Sale Sharks and the other Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs support the development of 3,000 targeted young people every year and an incredible 90 per cent complete the course, of which three quarters will go on to achieve a positive progression into further education training and employment.
Thursday night’s awards were a celebration of the programme’s standout performers and World Cup winners Burford, Lewis Moody, Danielle Waterman, and London Irish prop Halani Aulika, were among those presenting awards.
“The HITZ programme has helped me to get a full-time job as a hairdresser because through HITZ I achieved my Maths, English and better lifestyle management qualifications,” Katie said.
“Without the HITZ programme I wouldn’t be doing anything – it’s changed my life.
“I was always swapping to different schools, I never stayed in one place at all – I found it difficult to fit in at school, and I fell into the wrong crowds.
“But I did my work placement at HITZ through the Rochdale Youth Service – we took them bowling, and did planned lessons with them. I used to be in their position, coming through their GCSEs, so I know how they’re feeling.”
Sale Sharks HITZ officer Tom Leader added: “Katie’s selfless commitment to volunteering is one example of how empowering the programme can be.
“She was quiet and I don’t think she fully understood the programme at the start. It did take time for her to get used to what we wanted her to do.
“Now Katie goes out into the community and works with the youth service to provide young people something so they’re not out on the streets. It’s what young people need these days.”
The annual HITZ Awards recognise some of the most inspiring young people in England. The HITZ programme delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment. See hitzrugby.com