11-year-old girl graduates from Southern California community college

A handout photo of Athena Elling in cap and gown at Irvine Valley College. Elling will be the school's youngest graduate

Eleven-year-old Athena Elling’s cap and gown may be a lot smaller than most of her fellow classmates graduating from junior college on Thursday, but her degree is a pretty big deal. 

Along with graduates who are predominately between 19 and 21 years old, Athena walked across the stage to get her degree from Irvine Valley College in Irvine, California, on Thursday evening. She is graduating with cum laude honors and getting her associate’s degree in liberal arts.

Athena’s mother, Christina Chow, told USA TODAY in an interview ahead of the graduation 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,” Chow said. “We’ve tried not to say no to anything she’s expressed interest in.”

Elling family holds first and second place for youngest grad

This is not the first time the Elling family has a much younger graduate at Irvine Valley College.

Athena’s brother, Tycho Elling, nabbed the record for youngest graduate from the Orange County community college one year ago, also at the age of 11.

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