By Paul Smith
RUGBY World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio is used to taking centre stage at Twickenham but on Monday he stepped aside to give a Lewisham schoolboy his time in the spotlight.
The home of English rugby was the scene for the inaugural Dallaglio Foundation Rugby for Change awards, recognising the hard work and achievements of the young people, teachers, schools and coaches involved in the programme’s first year as they bid to engage and empower young people at risk through the power of sport.
And one of those celebrated on Monday night was 15-year-old Onyeka Nwogwonuwe, who walked away with the Young Leader of the Year award.
Nwogwonuwe has thrown himself into the scheme at his school, Abbey Manor College, demonstrating leadership skills, responsibility for his actions and going the extra-mile to provide a positive contribution.
All of this led to the Nwogwonuwe walking away with one of the first-ever Dallaglio Foundation Rugby for Change awards and he admitted the gong would take pride of place in his home.
“I'm happy, really happy because I wasn't expecting to win so I am really happy about it,” the teenager said.
“They came to my school and as soon as they came to my school I have been enjoying it and they come in every week and from then we have done more competitions with other schools.
“I want to carry on because of the fact I get to work with my school, my team and everyone I know.
“Before I wasn't really able to work in a team as much as I am now but now I have worked with my team I am the leader sometimes so it is good.
“It’s given me a purpose in life and something to do.
“I think it's just the leadership I get when I'm leading my team and the way my team are towards me.
“To be a good leader I think you never give up on your team.
“I can take inspiration from Lawrence Dallaglio and being here at Twickenham and I can learn a lot from it.”
Nwogwonuwe wasn’t the only success story from the lavish Twickenham ceremony with 16-year-old Chino Parkinson, a pupil at Newhaven School in Eltham, walking away with the most improved young person of the year award.
The 16-year-old received his honour from London Wasps winger Christian Wade and said: “I am really pleased with the awards, I didn't really expect it.
“I think it's because of my concentration in the lessons and working with the team - it makes you achieve more.
“Every lesson we learn different things and it pushes us to the test and every time it pushes us to the test we achieve more.
“It has changed my life it has helped me calm down as well.
“I used to get angry quick but now it has calmed me down more I can control my anger.”
Dallaglio Foundation Rugby for Change uses the sport and its core values to empower individuals to make positive choices.
For more information, visit dallagliofoundation.com
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