Back to All News

Sunderland lays framework for success

Transitioning from high school to university in 2020 has thrown up more challenges than ever for first year students – but thanks to the skills and knowledge gained at ACG Sunderland, Chase Leathard has taken it all in his stride.

Alumni Chase Leathard

This year the ACG alumnus (and 2019 Head Boy) embarked on degree level studies at the University of Auckland, with hopes of being accepted into their highly renowned Med School for 2021. Competition is stiff, and top marks are vital, so the foundations laid during his time at ACG have been invaluable.

“I haven’t found university that much more challenging than high school,” says Chase. “Sure, the content is harder and there’s a lot of it, but I got into such a good study routine at school that I’ve just transferred those skills to university.

“ACG Sunderland taught me that hard work pays off, organisation is a tool needed for everyday life, and seeking guidance is key to success.”

During his time at ACG Chase held a number of leadership roles, which he learnt to juggle skilfully with his academic work and his other life passion – dance. Among other things, these opportunities taught him the vital art of time management.

“All the extra time I would spend on roles within the school community I have just injected into my university work, making the workload very doable.

“I cannot express how much ACG Sunderland prepared me for tertiary study. I utilise the skillset installed by the Sunderland teachers every day at university, whether it be Mrs Barlow’s organisational method or Mr Keen’s teachings of making decisions quick and fast. Their daily advice and wisdom will always stick with me.”

So too, will the vast benefits of studying the Cambridge curriculum.

“The Cambridge curriculum allows you to hit the ground running at university. There have been too many occasions to count that I have sat there and thought, my ACG teachers already taught me this, I’m sweet for this lecture. The hard-work you put in at school is most certainly not wasted once you step into university life.”

Chase admits that 2020 has not gone completely as he had expected, and like everyone, he found lockdowns and online study difficult and unsettling. Instead of fully reaping the benefits of the Top Achiever’s Scholarship he received last year, which included catered hall of residence accommodation, he has spent much of 2020 living at home.

“I stayed with my family during lockdowns and even outside of lockdowns I haven’t lived in halls full-time due to my dance commitments. However, I’ve used the room when it has suited me, and it has provided me with a personal study space that I can escape to anytime I want. It has really added to my first-year experience of university and I’m very grateful to have been awarded the prestigious scholarship.”

Dance remains a vital life force for Chase. He trains ten hours a week, and this month the award-winning dancer will complete two major dance examinations.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave dance behind, it is a piece of me that makes me, me. You can’t just sit at home and study 24 hours a day; what kind of life is that? Like Mrs Barlow always used to tell me, I have to have a good work-life balance. I didn’t want to look back on this year and just see myself studying, I wanted to achieve outside of my academia.”

And achieve, he certainly has.

“I bought my first property, I was filmed as a demonstrator for a new ballet curriculum that will soon be sent to dance teachers all around the country, I trained hard to get back to the competitive level I was at last year, and I’ve been busy preparing for my upcoming dance exams.”

All this while doing exceptionally well at university and enjoying it at the same time. But has this high achieving, super-positive and energetic individual discovered any stumbling blocks this year?

“The thing I’ve struggled with most is the vast multitude of people at university. I found it very overwhelming. I joke with my friends that at Sunderland if there is ever a new face, everyone notices. At school everyone knew everyone. The hardest part of the transition from high school to university for me personally was this change to not knowing anyone and no-one knowing me.”

Turns out lifelong friendships are yet another benefit Chase has taken away from his time at ACG.

“People say you drift from your friends after you graduate from high school, but I haven’t, in fact I’ve grown closer to them. Friendships that I’ve had for seven years are relationships that I don’t want to lose. My Sunderland friends are friends for life.

“ACG Sunderland will always be a part of me. It has never just been a school for me, but a second home.”



. A key to some of the Sunderland teachers who helped guide and support Chase:
Mrs Barlow Science Faculty Co-ordinator who teaches Years 7, 8 and 9 science and Years 11, 12 and 13 biology
Mr Keen Director of Sport, PE teacher and Upper College Dean