St. Mel’s Sibling Students Who Excel in School and Music Turn to Christ

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

While plenty of siblings fight, Keo and Koey Ma play dueling pianos, which express their personalities and talent with every note.

“I usually take it as a hobby, but it helps me relax,” Keo said. “It’s a bit tricky to try to sync with and master the pieces with my sister, but otherwise, it is pretty fun to do.”

As students at St. Mel’s Catholic Academy in Flushing, the school’s piano lab is a second home and a place they’ve been allowed to shine.

Keo and Koey’s parents, Leo and Vickie, beam with pride. Their kids are always tuned in, even in the classroom. The brother and sister duo have both skipped a grade.

“I don’t think they would get this amount of attention and individual attention in a public school,” Leo said. “I think it’s very important that Saint Mel’s really provide them with a steady environment where they can grow.”

“Skipping third grade and heading to fourth was tricky to make friends were for a while,” Keo said. “I just made friends with somebody, and then it all just became easier from there.”

“Once Keo skipped, Koey was like, ‘Can I skip a grade?’” Leo said. “She loves to compare, and she can compete as well with her brother.”

“It just feels normal after some time, though,” Koey said. “But a little weird at first, because in fifth grade, I was eight years old for the first month, so everyone thought I skipped two grades instead.”

Principal Amy Barron has only seen it done one other time.

“We want to make sure that we can meet all of our students’ needs, those that are struggling, but also those that are advanced,” Barron said. “So by doing this, it provides that challenge that they need.”

Their dedication spills out of school and into the Taekwondo studio. They’re quiet in class but loud when it counts.

But the biggest challenge of their young lives wasn’t on the mat, a test paper, or a sheet of music, but in their hearts.

“One day they just came up to us and said, ‘How can we be Catholics? How can we get baptized?’” Leo said. “I was like, ‘I guess sure,’ and we started bringing them to church on a weekly basis.”

Keo and Koey weren’t born Catholic, but their time at St. Mel’s made them want to be part of a faith they say was calling them.

“I decided to become Catholic because I wanted to follow God, which is also the reason why I became an altar server,” Keo said.

“I want to become closer to God because then I can go to heaven,” Koey said.

Like everything else they’ve put their minds to, they didn’t just do it; they excelled. They’re already putting their newfound faith into action.

“They love to donate stuff, share their love,” Vickie said. “In the Chinese culture, we always get like an envelope for the Chinese New Year. They would love to donate that money to the poor and help people in need.”

Keo and Koey are proof that even at a young age, success without purpose is empty.

“They never shy away from a challenge,” Barron said. “They always want to learn more. They want to do more and just be their best selves.”

Now they say life without faith is just living, and their plan is to thrive.