Natalie Sexton, 20, based in Twickenham, told the Standard: “There was a point where I didn’t want to go to work, I didn’t want anything to do with education. I just didn’t have a great school life if i'm honest and in the end I left with no GCSE’s.”
It was after her Connexions adviser recommended she join Harlequins foundation, which is the charitable arm of the south west London rugby club, that her life began to take a positive turn.
The foundation acts a safe space for those out of education and enrols children as young as 13 onto a mixture of programmes focused on mental health, education and drug abuse.
Ms Sexton left her role as a part-time youth worker and joined the organisations award-winning Hitz programme, which centres around developing life skills and providing work experience in 2017.
The foundation works alongside Premiership Rugby to run the programme, supporting young people aged 16 to 18, who are not in education, training, or jobs each year.
After 12 months on Hitz, Ms Sexton's "exceptional work” led her to become the organisations first-ever apprentice, going on to achieve a level 3 in PE and sports and a Level 2 in coaching before a short stint as one of its youngest teaching assistants.
The 20-year-old, who was recently promoted as staff officer of the programme, said: “If it wasn’t for the foundation, I don’t know where I would be today. I suffered a lot with my depression and anxiety but now I’m finding ways to manage my mental health because of them.”