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16-year-old becomes youngest to earn Harvard Extension master’s degree

The youngest person to ever receive a master’s degree from the Harvard Extension School will join the hundreds of other graduates at the university this week when they get commendations for their years of hard work.

Sixteen-year-old Eugenie de Silva began graduate courses at the extension school, part of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education, in 2012. On Wednesday, she came to Cambridge to pick up a cap and gown.

“I am looking forward to enjoying the day with my dad who will be in the audience, and celebrating with my fellow graduates during the ceremony,” de Silva said in an e-mail.

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The Extension School, which is independent of Harvard College, offers continuing education through open-enrollment courses, as well as professional certificates and liberal arts-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs aimed at nontraditional students, according to university officials.

De Silva has earned a Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies, with a concentration in Legal Studies, according to school records.

For de Silva, completing the program to secure her master’s required taking courses both at the school and online. She hopes to one day the US secretary of defense.

De Silva has a full academic plate outside of her extension school studies. At 15, she began her doctorate in politics at the University of Leicester, England, while still completing her work in Cambridge, she said. She is also editing a series of academic books.

The 16-year-old said constantly studying and obtaining degrees is how she proves her abilities and expands her knowledge, but striking a balance both academically and socially is important.

“I have always believed this, so I have friends who are my age and I do take part in normal social activities. I simply balance my life, so that I can excel academically at a faster pace than is the norm,” she said.

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Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.