11-year-old to become Irvine Valley College's youngest graduate

Athena Elling will be taking the title from her old brother Tycho who graduated in 2023, just days before turning 12.

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Athena Elling, 11, is expected to become the youngest graduate at Irvine Valley College's commencement ceremony on Thursday.

Elling will take the title from her older brother Tycho Elling, who graduated from Irvine Valley College in 2023, just days before he turned 12.

The would-be sixth grader from San Juan Capistrano went from an online charter school straight to college, following in her brother’s footsteps. Though Elling said her main motivation comes from her very competitive nature.

“I’m really, really, really excited because I’ve always been competitive with my brother,” said Elling. “and I get to beat him, which I’m really happy about.”

Elling said she's not only taking her brother's title but topping it.

“He got his associate’s degree a couple days before he turned 12,” said Elling. “and I’m going to get my associate’s degree when I’m still very eleven.”

While not everybody graduates from college at 11 years old, Elling is like many 11-year-olds in that she is fun, energetic and has many hobbies outside of school.

“I really like taking taekwondo classes. I also take dance classes, I really like doing guitar and if you count it as a hobby, I also am constantly chasing my chickens to get back in their cage," said Elling.

Elling is graduating cum laude with an associate’s degree with an emphasis in Liberal Arts. She said she likes college because she’s not limited by what she can learn.

“I really want to become an actress. I really like all my subjects, which is why I like community college because I can take a bunch of different subjects at once," said Elling.

The family legacy at Irvine Valley College won’t stop with Elling and Tycho. Her younger sister, who is 9 years old, is a student at the college too.

“I beat my brother’s record, and she’ll probably beat my record,” said Elling.

1,504 students will be receiving degrees at Thursday’s commencement ceremony at Irvine Valley College.

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