Teen sisters, daughters of Nigerian immigrants, to graduate from Stony Brook

Maravilha Ani, 18, left, with her sister Lidia, Maravilha Ani, 18, left, with her sister Lidia, 17, outside on the Stony Brook campus, May 22, 2014. Both Maravilha and Lidia will graduate from Stony Brook University. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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Lidia Ani just turned 17, and under normal circumstances would be preparing for her senior year in high school. Instead, she's graduating from college -- as an honor student headed to medical school.

Lidia, the daughter of immigrants from Nigeria who live in Bay Shore, started taking college courses when she was 13 and Friday will graduate from Stony Brook University. Her older sister, Maravilha, 18, is also graduating.

The two are surprisingly nonchalant about an achievement that's rare in the annals of the history of Stony Brook, or most colleges.

"I'm finally finished, basically," Lidia said. "We were never made to feel like it was anything special or a big deal."

Maravilha has similar sentiments. "I don't feel as excited as I think I should be," she said. "I'm just glad it's over."

The sisters' achievement is notable not just because of their ages, but also their academic performances. Lidia scored a 99 on a recent biology final exam in which the class average was 62, said professor Peter Gergen, director of the undergraduate biology program.

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"She's spectacular," he said. "She was the No. 1 student" out of a class of 79.

Lidia has a 3.97 grade-point average, and is graduating summa cum laude. Her sister's GPA is about 3.8. Both earned bachelor's degrees in biology.

The girls' father, Samuel Ani, 53, a family doctor trained in Nigeria who now works in Brooklyn and Queens, said he has no special recipe for his daughters' success.

"It was more of a gift than what we have worked for," he said. "I don't believe it is because of what we have done."

Still, he did say that Lidia showed some unusual traits early on. When she was 3 and in preschool, she'd do her homework without her parents telling her to do so.

The girls started in the Brentwood school district, then transferred to Smithtown Christian School for a few years. They were also home-schooled for a time.

Later, the family relocated to Kentucky, where the girls took about a year's worth of college courses at Eastern Kentucky University when Lidia was 13. When they returned to Long Island, the sisters enrolled at Farmingdale State College for a semester before switching to Stony Brook.

They were both born in Angola, where their father was stationed for a time as part of a Nigerian government-sponsored program. The family moved to the United States in 1997.

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The teens' mother, Helen, is a teacher who has worked in public schools in East New York, Brooklyn. The family also includes four younger sisters.

The oldest sisters have read voraciously since they were young. Lidia recalls devouring nearly 200 Nancy Drew books in fourth grade alone. They also grew up rarely watching TV.

Their college experience has been unusual in other ways. They were so young they couldn't live in the dorms, and one of their parents or someone else had to drive them to and from school every day.

Lidia said the only course she didn't receive a perfect grade in was one on Shakespeare. She had arrived late for the final because the family had car trouble.

She applied to about 15 medical schools, but so far was accepted to only one -- Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. She may go there, though the family wants to see if she gets accepted to one closer to New York.

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Maravilha also hopes to attend medical school, but is taking off a "gap" year to work.

The sisters said they didn't struggle to get through college -- working hard, but not exhausting themselves. The classes were challenging, Lidia said, "but they weren't impossible."

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