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UCLA Magazine Winter 2003
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Winter 2003
The Littlest Bruin
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For one young student, coming to UCLA is more than just an opportunity to get a great education. It is the adventure of a lifetime.

Catherine Beni

By David Greenwald
Photography by Ann Johansson

On the first day of Fall Quarter,
Catherine Beni bounds up to the doors of Moore Hall, her long, blonde ponytail bobbing behind her as her blue-sneakered feet fly over the steps and a hefty backpack crammed with texts and notebooks bangs against her shoulders.

Fueled by a breakfast of relatively healthful Smart Start cereal ringed within a moat of ultra-sugary Chocolate Mud & Bugs, Catherine clearly is energized for the day ahead. First there had been PIC 10 — Introduction to Computer Programming — in the Math Sciences building. Now it is time for Italian 4 in Moore Hall, and she doesn't want to risk being late.

"I need to get there early so I can be sure to get a seat in the front row," Catherine says somewhat breathlessly. "I always sit in the front row. Sometimes you get these humungous people who sit in front of you and then you can't see whichever way you try to look.
"And also, if I'm in the front row I can really pay attention and concentrate and nothing else will disturb me."

As she takes the steps two at a time, her forward momentum seemingly the only thing keeping her upright as gravity wrestles with the oversized knapsack to topple her backwards, Catherine doesn't resemble a typical college student so much as her favorite storybook character, Tigger, the bounciest creature in all of contemporary literature.

Then again, Catherine is not a typical college student.

She is 12 years old.

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