Eric Engoron, 18, of Roslyn Heights was born with cerebral palsy and is determined to not let the disability define him. In addition to taking five advanced placement classes in his senior year and being one of the top 10 students in his class, he taught himself Japanese, inspired by a classmate from Japan.

"I'm not fluent, but I'm on my way," he said, adding that the language will help him in his career goal of working in robotics and artificial intelligence to help those with disabilities.

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His plans: To major in engineering at Stony Brook University.

In his words: At a recent Intercultural Unity event, Engoron and his friend Taisei Chiba sang "Yellow Submarine" in Japanese. "It's pretty much my desire to show people that a physical disability doesn't mean anything in terms of mental capacity," Engoron said. "That's pretty much been my drive this whole time."

The view from the guidance office: Counselors say his disability is the last characteristic anyone would use to describe Engoron, who won the Wheatley Medal as the school's overall outstanding student. "He has graced these halls with such dignity and courage," said Mary Harrison, the school's director of guidance. "He's the most compassionate, caring kid."