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Published on May 22, 2024
11-Year-Old Prodigy Athena Elling Set to Become Youngest Irvine Valley College GraduateSource: Google Street View

An 11-year-old girl from San Juan Capistrano, Athena Elling, is making headlines as she is set to become the youngest graduate of Irvine Valley College this week. Athena, who will be earning an associate degree in liberal arts, will be breaking the record previously held by her brother, Tycho Elling, who had graduated from the same college at age 12.

In a statement obtained by KTLA, Athena spoke about the sibling rivalry that pushed her to follow in her brother's footsteps, "So I chased my brother, who I am very competitive with, all the way into calculus because he really liked math." Athena's educational journey began at the tender age of 9, demonstrating that she was able to not just quickly learn, but to excel amidst older peers.

Despite her academic achievements, Athena's mother, Christina Chow, maintains that her daughter still enjoys her childhood. "I am both proud and a little bit in awe of my own children. That they’ve already developed so well," she told KTLA. Athena's father is a software engineer, and her mother was a high school chemistry teacher before becoming a children's author, providing a nurturing environment full of academic and creative stimulation.

According to an ABC7 interview, Athena's ambitions extend beyond academia. "There's this line in 'Hamilton' where Alexander Hamilton is singing about how he'll never be satisfied, so I guess always keep going and try to go for the next thing," Athena said. The driven young scholar is also a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo, an aspiring actress, and a musician.

Her professors have taken notice of her unique position and talents. Associate Professor Andrew Levy said, "I had no idea she was ten at the time," noting her mature and inquisitive classroom demeanor. "She was mature, inquisitive. She asked questions," he added, as reported by CBS News. Athena's mom underscored the family's philosophy in supporting their children's passions, saying, "Whatever our children liked, we always just kind of said do what you want as long as you are going to take it seriously."

As Athena prepares to accept her degree cum laude, with a GPA over 3.5, her journey is far from over. She plans to pursue an additional associate degree in music or psychology after her summer classes at Irvine Valley College. Athena's remarkable stride through education at such a young age is a testament to her dedication and the possibilities that can unfold when a child's potential is nurtured and encouraged.