Tiara and Tanishq Abraham look like average kids; and in many ways, they are. They both love animated films like “Zootopia” and “The Lego Movie,” and they enjoy Bollywood movies.
Tiara, 11, likes playing with her cats, Chubby and Lucky, reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, playing card games with her family, and learning golf.
Tanishq, 13, likes surfing the Internet, scrolling through his Twitter and Facebook feeds, and playing outdoors.
Here’s what sets them apart from other kids: They’re both in college; they’re among the youngest members ever inducted into Phi Theta Kappa; and they have spoken and performed in front of adult audiences across the country.
Tiara is a polyglot—she learns languages easily—and recently released a holiday album, Winter Nightingale, containing renditions of classic carols and holiday songs in six languages: English, Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, and French. The CD is now available on cdbaby, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and iTunes.
She has been able to sing like a classically trained singer since she was around 4 years old and has performed twice at Carnegie Hall. And, she will perform the national anthem at PTK Catalyst, April 6-8 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Tiara also has a gift for numbers; she loves math, and she enjoys doing Sudoku puzzles. She recently placed first in a Pi Day celebration at American River College in California—she started taking classes there when she was 7 and has a 4.0 GPA—where she recited 530 digits. She became a MENSA member at 4 and a Phi Theta Kappa member at 9.
“Going to college at 7 years old was fun for me because I enjoyed learning the subjects that I studied,” Tiara said. “I had to do everything that my college classmates did in the class, and I worked independently on my homework, exams, and projects/reports.
“I did not get special treatment except I sit in the front row so I am not covered by the big people.”
Tiara was a guest speaker and performer at TEDx Folsom and the Sharjah Children’s Reading International Festival in 2016, and she has won state, regional and international singing competitions.
She plans to major in music and dreams of becoming a famous opera singer like Renée Fleming, but she also hopes to major in both math and foreign languages as well.
“Hopefully, I will graduate soon from American River College just like my brother!” she said.
When the children began college, their mother, Dr. Taji Abraham, attended with them, first taking classes alongside Tanishq and then waiting in the hallway when both kids were in class together.
“Once we saw our children’s strengths, passions, and talents, we encouraged them and supported them,” she said. “We did not push them toward a certain field or area of our liking; instead, we looked for cues and listened to their ideas and guided them to the right direction.”
Taji was a veterinarian and researcher before putting her career on hold when she realized Tanishq was gifted—he was very outgoing and curious, and at 2 he was already on a first or second grade education level. Tiara was more reserved and observant, but by 3 she was reading.
Seeing similar talents in Tiara led Taji to quit her profession to be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool teacher. Her husband, Bijou, is a software engineer and a math prodigy in his own right—his SAT math score was perfect.
“We let them have fun in the right things that they enjoy doing,” she said. “Along with that, we guide them to be well-rounded in other aspects of childhood.
“In spite of their radical acceleration in certain areas of their lives, we let them be kids and make sure they get enough rest and sleep.”
Tiara and Tanishq have appeared together on “The Doctors,” “The Queen Latifah Show,” Huffington Post Live, and the “Steve Harvey Show.”
Tanishq has also been interviewed on CNN and MSNBC and by Conan O’Brien, and he was a contestant on the first season of “Child Genius.”
“There were times that my fellow contestants were intimidated by me because I was a college student, but more so the parents, which is strange—I have seen most of the time it is the adults who get intimidated rather than my peers,” he said. “Nevertheless, it was fun playing with friends that I had on the set.”
Tanishq began reading and writing around age 3 and was also a MENSA member at 4. At 6, he became interested in dinosaurs and paleontology, so he begged his parents to enroll him in a college course on the subject. When he was 7, he enrolled in a geology course at American River College, and he was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa when he was 9.
In addition to serving as a PTK chapter officer, he founded and was vice president of the college’s Astronomy and Physics Club. He holds three associate degrees from American River College and will earn a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering from the University of California, Davis in 2018. Next will come a PhD in biomedical engineering, and then an MD.
“I would like to be a medical researcher with a discovery that will help humanity, and a physician, and one day the POTUS!” he said.
Tanishq is also an accomplished public speaker. He’s given two TEDx Talks (watch one), and he spoke at the NASA Lunar Science Conference when he was only 9.
While many might assume Tiara and Tanishq’s parents push them toward these high accomplishments, it’s actually the opposite. Both children say they do the pushing—they want to take advantage of every opportunity available to them because they love to learn.
“Our parents always advise us, and I think their advice is the best,” Tiara said. “They tell us to be good to people, stay humble, work hard, do our best, and leave the rest to God.”
Keep up with Tiara and Tanishq on Facebook or on Twitter @iScienceLuvr, @sopranotiara, and @iCatLuvr.
Photos courtesy of Taji and Bijou Abraham.