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MHS Class of 2012 Valedictorian, Salutatorian

Ten years ago, a little girl in a blue dress sat in a second-grade classroom at Unqua Elementary School not comprehending a word her teacher was saying. English, and dresses, were foreign to her because she spent most of her seven years living with her grandparents in China, wearing overalls. Today, with a weighted grade-point-average of 5.07 on a 4.75 scale, she will stand before her class on graduation day to deliver the valedictorian speech.

Bertie Geng is what one may call a valedictorian of valedictorians. She not only possesses a stellar academic record, but received a perfect score on the SAT, perfect scores on the SAT II in chemistry, biology and U.S. history, and a score of 5, the highest attainable score, on numerous Advanced Placement exams.  For her outstanding academic achievement, she was named a United States Presidential Scholar semifinalist, one of the most prestigious recognitions a student can attain.

This fall, she joins the freshman class at Yale University to study molecular biology as a pre-med student, a field she decided to pursue because she wants to help other people.

Bertie attributes her academic success to her greatest strength — her high stress tolerance.

“I never break down or reach a crisis point,” she said. “Although the work I have before me is frequently daunting, I can separate that from the imminent crisis and just focus on the work without letting it overwhelm me.”

Another source of strength for Bertie is the inspiration she gets from her mother, who grew up with two siblings under China’s “one child” policy in which only one child could remain in the city and avoid life as a peasant in the countryside. At the time, women were not permitted to attend college, so her mother joined the military. Several years later, when women were able to attend college, her mother returned to high school to catch up to her peers, tested into college and had the courage to move to another continent and restart her life.

A talented musician, Bertie performed on the violin and piano at the C. W. Post Chamber Music Festival with the Pierrot Consort. She was also a member of Chamber Orchestra and the TriM Honor Society for music excellence. As a varsity tennis player, Bertie was named a scholar athlete. She was also president of the Red Watch Band club, vice president of the Character Education club, secretary of student government and junior varsity captain of Quizbowl, a trivia club. Outside of school, she studied topics such as neurobiology and genetics at the Columbia Science Honors Program. She also participated in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and the Institute for Creative Problem Solving for Gifted and Talented Students.

Bertie received several awards throughout her academic career. She earned a third-place award for “Most Philosophical Student in America,” an AP Scholar with Honor Award, a Letter of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program, and is a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, as well as several others.

Among her favorite things, Bertie enjoys reading and traveling. A few years ago, she participated in a People to People Student Ambassador Program and traveled to the United Kingdom and experienced the country first-hand by staying with a host family.

Now, as she ventures off to college, Bertie said she will miss the friends she made in high school.

“They’ve always been there to keep me grounded, and they’re my favorite part of my high school years.”

With that sentiment in mind, she offered this advice to underclassmen. “Don’t be so quick to count down your days until the weekend/summer/graduation. Life isn’t about specific milestones or specific accomplishments. Life — most of life, anyway — is the day-to-day life between those moments, so enjoy your time in high school. Looking back, you’ll remember your friends and the silly things you did together, not the night of stress before a big exam.”    

Lauren Reisig, Salutatorian

Judging by her talents, Lauren Reisig will soon be a rising star in the legal profession. The Massapequa High School Class salutatorian led the Mock Trial Team to its historic county championship this spring, was a state and national champion in the National History Day and New York History Day contests, and was a summer intern at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Focused and determined, Lauren leaves Massapequa High School with a 5.017 weighted-grade-point average out of a 4.75 scale and will attend Harvard University in the fall. Her goals are clearly mapped out:  major in economics, attend law school then complete a federal clerkship. From there, become a U.S. Attorney or a judge.

The Mock Trial Team, her favorite part of high school, fueled her passion for law. She not only gained invaluable legal experience but also worked with a close-knit group of students who became her closest friends. “We practiced more than any other club; we were all very close,” she said.

Outside of the courtroom, Lauren excelled in many other academic areas, especially science and art. She was president of the Science Research Club and worked with a professor at CUNY Queens to develop her research on the ex1-1 gene in C. elegans and its impact on tumors.  She was treasurer of National Art Honor Society, captain of the varsity tennis team and a scholar athlete; and worked as a graphic designer on the school newspaper, The Chief.

Inspired by family members, especially her grandfather who was valedictorian of his high school class and graduated from Notre Dame University, she said, “I always thought he was the smartest person I ever met.” From her parents, she learned how to never give up and go out and get what she wants.

“My greatest strength is my drive,” Lauren said. “I love working hard and taking on challenges. My weakness is that I am a perfectionist and I am extremely competitive.”

Lauren’s achievements led to many awards, including a Letter of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program for achieving a high score on the PSATs, first place in the POB/JFK Moot Court Competition, first place in the Massapequa High School Mural Design Contest, and first and second place in the LOTE logo design competition, among others.

As a volunteer, Lauren helped teach young children to appreciate the arts through the Young People’s Cultural Arts Workshop, judged elementary school science fairs and volunteered at the regional level of National History Day. She also assisted participants in the Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged.

Her parting words to other students are, “Don’t let anyone define your limits. Listen to yourself and don’t let others discourage you.”