She didn't know the difference between honors and Advanced Placement classes. She didn't know she had to take the ACT. Her English was only basic after moving to the U.S. from Bolivia.
But she navigated her way to college despite all that -- and she took 17 other struggling Latino students along with her.
For years, the best minds in education have pondered how to get more Latino students to attend college. Bernal, now 24, may have found an answer. For her Brigham Young University honors thesis in 2007, Bernal designed and taught a college preparation class for Latino sophomores at Provo High School. Now, three years later, 17 of her 25 Provo High students are in college, and Bernal hopes to start a nonprofit to expand the program.
"I was able to relate to them and tell them it was possible," said Bernal, who recently graduated from BYU. "I shared my personal story and told them I could see so much potential in them."