When Bertie Geng first walked into a classroom in the Massapequa School District, she knew very little English. She'll end her tenure Monday night with the top grade point average and a ticket to Yale.
Bertie is valedictorian, finishing with a GPA of 5.067 on a 4.75 scale.
It's a far cry from her start in the second grade at where she said she "remembers not being able to understand."
Bertie made due as best as she could.
"The cultures were incredibly different," she said. "Math was the same, when [the teacher] gave me a sheet with numbers, I could finish it. That was no problem."
As a reward for finishing, teachers gave her a pencil. The star student says she still has a number of them.
Gradually, Bertie picked up what was going on and then learned to excel.
One reason is that she was never afraid to meet a challenge, like the time she went from 9th grade at the High School's right into Advanced Placement Biology in 10th grade at the main campus.
"Nobody warned me about that," she laughed. "I didn't know what I was getting into. I walked in the first day, at a new High School, and the teacher said we don't have any time to do any of the Welcome Back stuff, we're going to do this and this, and we're really behind, because other schools start in August. I sat there wanting to dump the class."
Another class the former English as a Second Language student stuck with was a Literature class that she was told "was impossible to pass."
Instead she credited the teacher as being one of the best in the school.
"I walked into it the first day and he was really, really funny." she said. "I never expected that. He's a really good teacher and he knows literature through and through."
Bertie combined top grades, a 2,400 SAT score and other interests including the violin, tennis and a first place finish in the Ames Science Fair to go to Yale.
"They seemed super, super friendly, and there seemed to be a more relaxed atmosphere if that's possible at Yale," she said.
As the valedictorian, Bertie admits she had a tough time with the speech saying of her fellow students,"I love them, We've grown up together."
"I don't necesarily know how to say goodbye to them."
She's hoping to go on to medical school and looks forward to a fulfilling future.
" I want to be a doctor, and I want to look back and say I helped one person in a way that others couldn't ."