Emily Yen left her cat in Moscow. But don't worry, it's staying with her grandmother.

Besides, they don't allow pets at her apartment complex in Rowland Heights.

The precocious 10-year-old strides three worlds with ease. Her mother is Russian, her father is Chinese and she grew up in the United States.

Emily speaks flawless English, though her family speaks Russian at home.

Now the quiet fourth-grader at Farjardo Elementary has taken on a new challenge: She's going to study at UCLA this summer.

"When I heard the Summer Institute for the Gifted was giving out scholarships, Emily was the first student I thought of," explained her teacher Daniele Jenkins.

Jenkins suggested that the petite brunette apply for the scholarships, which are given to only 25 select students throughout the country.

"The hardest part was the narrative essay telling them about myself," Emily said.

Of course, when you have a life like Emily's you have a lot to talk about. Your life story tends to tumble out onto the blank white paper.

So little Emily talked about her cat Mau Mau and her little brother Max. She may have even written about living in Russia for six months.

"Kids go to school six days a week there," Emily said. "The snow is freezing, but I love Russia."

Safely situated back in Southern California, the taciturn fourth-grader does what she does best, excel in academics.

She seems to love all her subjects in

the fourth-grade. And her teachers admire her hard work.

"Emily's one of those students who always challenges herself to do better. She's already reading at the sixth- or seventh-grade level and her math skills are a couple grades ahead," Jenkins noted.

Which is good, because this 10-year-old already has a well-defined list of goals.

"I want to do three things with my life," Emily expounded without a moment's hesitation. "I want to publish a book, travel the world and do something involving science."

When pressed on these goals, the slim student suggested that she might write fiction.

"I love to read. Maybe I'll write something like the 'Harry Potter' series," Emily said.

She's already traveled to Texas and Russia. But there's still a big world for her to explore.

"I think I might go into engineering and work in space or Earth sciences," Emily added.

She will get the chance to jump ahead by attending the Summer Institute for the Gifted at UCLA from July 26 to Aug. 15.

There the gifted students will study advanced academic courses. They'll also enjoy many cultural, social and recreational opportunities.

The sponsor, Renaissance Learning, will pay for Emily's tuition, course materials and lab fees, as well as her room and board. The cost should approach $4,000 for the three-week course.

To be eligible for a scholarship, students must score at or above the 95th percentile on a national standardized assessment. They must also be eligible for free or reduced lunches.

Though she readily admits she has never even been to a sleepover on her own, Emily says she's not scared to live in the dorms in Westwood this summer.

During her academic summer camp, Emily can take such courses as Fantasy Fiction Fun, in which students study the genre of fantasy fiction. They'll create their own fictional characters and worlds.

In Dollar Scholar, the kids will learn about investing, studying topics such as savings and interest, income and expenses, and the basics of the stock market.

The students can also study DNA, the structure that controls every living cell. The gifted students will learn what turns genes off and on. They'll even debate the ethical uses of DNA, as well as biotechnology.

Pretty fancy staff for a fourth-grader, but Emily is excited about facing some new challenges.

Now if she can only figure out how to get Mau Mau out of Moscow.


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