A Big Deal in a Little Package


Bryce Fraser

Eight-year-old Tanishq Abraham takes notes in his physical geology class taught by Professor Stephen Sterling on Oct. 5, 2011. (Photo by Bryce Fraser)

Sarah Vorn and Sarah Vorn

He went to class that evening dressed for the occasion: a white T-shirt with a Triceratop skull on it. Laser pointer in hand, Tanishq Abraham stood in front of the room. He shuffled from foot to foot as the professor loaded up his PowerPoint of the “Mystery of Dinosaur Extinction.”

The excitement was palpable as the seated students eagerly anticipated the presentation from their 8-year-old classmate. “This is a Pterosaur,” he said, pointing the red beam at the slide. “The ‘P’ is silent.”

The eldest of two children, Abraham was born in Sacramento on June 10, 2003 to parents Bijou Abraham, a software engineer, and Dr. Taji Abraham, a doctor of veterinary medicine. Abraham scored in the top 99.9 percentile on the standardized intelligence test, and at 4½-years-old, Abraham was accepted into Mensa, a society for people with IQ scores in the 98th percentile or higher. When traditional schooling could no longer accommodate his advanced learning needs, Dr. Abraham took the responsibility upon herself to home-school Abraham.

In his second semester at American River College, the school’s youngest student is currently enrolled in a physical geology course, taught by Professor Stephen Sterling.

“He loves to be in school,” said Dr. Abraham. “He gets excited … he enjoys being around others and sharing his knowledge.”

There’s no question his colleagues enjoyed sharing a class with Abraham, as they listened to everything he had to share. Cell phones came out, videos were recorded, and pictures were snapped as he excitedly differentiated the herbivores from the razor-sharp-teethed carnivorous dinosaurs. “He’s too cute to be real,” said classmate Keith Wilson, a business major at ARC.

“We always seek him out for help,” added Lisa Knott, a general education major. “He’s our answer key.”

Sterling first met the precocious youngster in the fall of 2010, when Abraham accompanied his mother to the earth science course that he taught. It wasn’t long before Abraham wanted more of this college experience and asked to take the class quizzes, too. Ever hungry for more knowledge, Abraham excels in his studies. “He’s a real asset,” said Sterling. “He’s the top student. The students love him and look up to him because they respect him (as they would) a peer.”

In addition to the enjoyment of school, Abraham has other activities that keep him busy. As part of the San Francisco Boys Chorus, he has performed in two concerts every year. He has also sung the national anthem at the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s games. He takes part in gymnastics, soccer, plays the piano and indulges in solving Sudoku puzzles.

Always curious, he has often turned to Google for answers. After a visit to see the NASA space shuttle launch in Florida over the summer, his account of the event was published in the Peninsula Astronomical Society, a newsletter for astronomy enthusiasts.

With such an advanced intellect, it is easy to forget that Abraham is still a child, and part of him is indeed still in the process of learning things as any child would. When asked which sports team he was rooting for, he turned his confused eyes to his mother. “What’s ‘rooting’ mean?”

Big aspirations come from this little package. Abraham has expressed his desires to be a full-time college student. “I want a degree,” he said. “I want one in all the sciences.” And when Abraham grows up, he wants to be three things, “President! A scientist! And a doctor!”