Two Newcastle College students have been recognised for their achievements at the Premiership Rugby HITZ Awards.

Hosted by Topsy Ojo and attended by Premiership players, the awards ceremony at Twickenham Stadium was a celebration of young learners and mentors involved in the Premiership Rugby flagship education and employment programme, HITZ.

The HITZ programme is an education and employability course that aims to re-engage young people using sport as a vehicle. In Newcastle, Falcons Community runs the HITZ programme in partnership with Newcastle College, supporting students studying for sports and protective services courses.

At the ceremony, Level 2 Sports Coaching student Jan Farkas was awarded the Physical Activity Award, in recognition of his progress and development towards leading a more active, healthy lifestyle.

After gaining weight during the pandemic. Jan joined the HITZ programme to participate in sport and lost an impressive 75kg, resulting in him feeling fitter, healthier and having higher self-esteem.

Jan said: “I’m in shock. I never thought I’d get an award for losing weight and playing rugby. The journey has had ups and downs in terms of my mindset so winning the award means everything.”

Reece Wray, also studying a Level 2 in Sports Coaching qualification, won the Young Achiever award, in recognition of the challenges he has overcome, and how hard he has worked to progress on his journey back to education, training or employment.

After the tragic losses of his father and grandfather, Reece joined HITZ struggling with his mental health and his confidence. Despite leaving school with no maths or English GCSEs, Reece has embraced both the HITZ programme and his college studies.

Volunteering at his local football and rugby clubs, on Newcastle Falcons match days as mascot ‘Flash the Falcon’, as well as speaking in front of large groups, Reece has been pushed out of his comfort zone and improved his confidence. He now plans to progress to a Level 3 qualification and pursue a career as a professional coach.

After winning his award, Reece said, “I can’t wait for the future. I want to build my skills up and help the community as much as possible. Having this award is going to motivate me every day.”

Jan and Reece’s tutor Kevin Ester said: “Both Reece and Jan thoroughly deserve their awards. They’ve put their all into their courses and coaching with the Falcons, I’m really proud of them.

“The change in Reese in particular has been incredible. When he first came to Newcastle College he was really struggling. I worked with him in one-to-ones and together, we figured out what the issue was. He started channelling his energy into his coaching; using it as motivation and now he’s like a different lad!”

Find out more about studying Sport at Newcastle College