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Saturday, June 22, 2024

11-year-old exceptional girl graduates US university with an associate degree, sets record as school’s youngest graduate

11-year-old exceptional girl, Athena Ellinghas made history as the youngest ever student to graduate from Irvine Valley College, California in the United States.

Athena obtained an associates degree in Liberal Arts with a summa cum laude grade at the college. She stated that she was inspired by her elder brother who also earned his associates degree at the age of 12. 

Immediately after her brother achieved the feat, she enrolled at Irvine college and began taking high school-level courses early and then added community college classes through a dual-enrollment program.

“My brother also graduated with an AA just a couple days before he turned 12 and when he did it, I really also wanted to do that,” Athena said. “It was sort of the finalized moment that — woohoo! — I beat Tycho,” she added.



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Athena mentioned that she competes with her brother in everything, including cooking and taekwondo. She said she wanted to be faster than him when they were younger, and she has long hoped to become taller than him.

Athena’s mother, Christina Chow, told USA TODAY  that the community college allowed her daughter to explore a wide array of interests.  “In the past year, she has wanted to be a divorce attorney, an allergist, and an actor. We’ve tried not to say no to anything she’s expressed interest in,” Chow said. 

In sixth grade, Athena started taking classes at Irvine College before she left her charter school and began homeschooling a few months later. Her parents enrolled her as a ninth grader while she continued to take courses at the community college.


Chow mentioned that her children started reading mystery and science fiction novels such as at a young age, but she does not know how they became so intelligent so rapidly.

She said she and her husband made it clear to Athena and her brother, Tycho, that there was no pressure to continue with the college courses. “We don’t like to stand in their way, and we think that they need to be allowed freedom to explore,” Chow said.

“And so, you know, we just asked that whatever it is they do, they take it seriously. And Athena often takes everything she does very, very, very seriously,” she added.

Athena first took psychology and Chinese classes without prerequisites and after passing them, she progressed to computer science and writing courses. Initially, she was not free with her classmates because of the age gap but with time, she warmed up with them.

She stated that she is taking more classes at Irvine Valley College, where she wants to earn associate’s degrees in psychology, theater and music. Atena said she eventually wants to be admitted to a more competitive four-year college than her brother like an Ivy League School.


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