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2020 ACG Founders’ Scholarship Winner: David Li

With a stellar record of academic achievement since joining Sunderland’s Year 9 cohort in 2016, recent graduate Junheng (David) Li has added ACG Founders’ Scholarship recipient to his impressive list of accomplishments.


Receiving the ACG Founders’ Scholarship has meant the world to this gracious, unassuming student and his future study plans.

“This scholarship will play a significant role in contributing to the financial support of my academic journey and making my dreams of studying at an overseas university a reality,” says David.

Valued at up to $75,000 over three years, the ACG Founders’ Scholarship is more than merely an award for outstanding academic ability. It also considers personal qualities for future success, such as integrity, leadership, drive, and work ethic.

During his time at Sunderland, David has personified these values. In addition to his phenomenal academic results (culminating in being named 2020 school Dux), the talented musician and keen scuba diver has been a House Leader, peer tutor, and table tennis team member. Plus, he played the piano for the school jazz band and his own band, Hex.

Sunderland Principal Nathan Villars is delighted at the ongoing success of his exceptional alumnus.

“David was a wonderful student, so incredibly humble and yet blessed with a brilliant analytical brain. He continues to succeed at the very top of a global cohort. I wish him all the best in 2021 and beyond as he pursues his personal dream of studying at one the world’s top universities.”

The hard-working teen has dreamed of attending a world-renowned UK university for the past five years, with aspirations to pursue a career in medicine, eventually specialising in pathology and immunology. Accordingly, he has applied to four prestigious tertiary institutions: the University of Oxford, the University of Bristol, the University of Manchester and Queen’s University in Belfast.

“I believe that studying at a top UK university will provide many opportunities. I’m looking forward to the prospect of visiting another country and delving deeper into the areas of study that I enjoy. Gaining more autonomy with my studies and being able to meet and work with likeminded people will be exciting.”

Eager to acquire experience and skills in scientific research, David hopes to assist in various projects and potentially take a dedicated research year during his time at university.

“Knowing that research is an important part of medicine, learning and obtaining the abilities to interpret as well as undertake research will be extremely important,” he confirms. “Witnessing Covid-19 vaccines being developed in such a short amount of time across 2020 was awe-inspiring. It highlighted the magnitude of medical research in society, piqued my interest in medical research, and furthered my desire to pursue medicine.”

The focussed eighteen-year-old is grateful for the lessons he has learned from Sunderland – both in terms of subject knowledge and life beyond the classroom.

“I feel the school has provided me with a strong academic foundation and allowed me to develop good study techniques and independence in my academic pursuits. It helped me gain confidence in my abilities and has given me the courage to apply to an overseas university.

“Sunderland teaches us that you can, and should, take every opportunity presented to you. It is only by stepping out of your comfort zone that you develop and learn more about yourself.”

David is also quick to praise Sunderland and the entire ACG community for creating a supportive environment that empowers students to succeed.

“I would not be in the position I am now if I had not attended Sunderland. I want to thank Principal Villars, who ensured learning was not unduly affected by the pandemic. And my form room teacher, Dr Kerryn Olsen, for her encouragement and guidance when times were stressful. Finally, I must thank my parents for their ceaseless support, and for choosing a quality education from an ACG school.”

And what advice does he have for students looking to follow in his footsteps?

“Alongside academics, being involved with the school culture and holding leadership positions are very important. The application process for the ACG Founders’ Scholarship was straight forward, and I actually enjoyed the interview process; the interviewers are extremely nice people. Don’t be afraid of applying – there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

“I really enjoyed my time at Sunderland, and I am truly honoured to have received the ACG Founders’ Scholarship. I look forward to what the future may entail.”