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Transient teen celebrates ‘home’ at Sacred Heart Academy prom

From left, Julia Murphy, 18, of Long Beach,

From left, Julia Murphy, 18, of Long Beach, Alex Belluccia, 17, of Hewlett, Jake Kiehl, 18, of Columbus, Ohio, and Maia Kelly, 17, of Oyster Bay, attend the Sacred Heart Academy senior prom at Woodbury Country Club on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Credit: Tara Conry

While celebrating her senior prom at the Woodbury Country Club Thursday night with about 200 of her classmates, Sacred Heart Academy senior Maia Kelly said she was sad to be leaving them soon.

For the Oyster Bay resident, her four years at SHA, an all-girls Catholic school in Hempstead, marked the first time she truly felt she belonged to a community.

Although she was born in Manhattan, Kelly, 17, said she spent much of her childhood moving back and forth from New York to Singapore and Tokyo.

Her father’s job sometimes was the reason for relocating, she said, but her mother, who is of Japanese descent, also wanted her children to live in Japan so they could learn the language.

They returned to the United States in 2010, settling on Long Island, just in time for Kelly and her twin brother, Sean, to start high school. She went to SHA, an all-girls Catholic school located in Hempstead, and he to Chaminade, an all-boys Catholic school in Mineola. (He also attended the prom Thursday, escorting one of Kelly’s friends.)

“I never really had a sense of community, because I moved so much,” she said. “Sacred Heart’s really become a home to me.”

At SHA, Kelly, a singer, songwriter and violinist, said she developed her musical talents and close friendships.

“The friends I made here are the best friends I’ve ever had,” she said.

She’ll be singing at graduation with one of these friends, Caroline Adrien, an original song called “Chapters” that they wrote together. (The girls have their own YouTube channel  that showcases some of their other collaborations.)

In the fall, she’ll be off to Florida State University to major in music, and further down the road, she said she may even return to Japan to try to make it as a singer and songwriter overseas. She said she hopes she can make a name for herself there, and then, try to ride that wave of success back home.

“I think being an American-looking girl who speaks Japanese is kind of an advantage there and it’s a smaller pool to compete with,” she said.

Growing up living in different counties and struggling to learn two languages at once, Kelly said she gravitated toward music, because she found it was almost a universal language.

“Anywhere I went, everyone loved music,” she said. “It’s something that everyone understands.”

Users on mobile devices can access the YouTube channel of Maia Kelly and her friends at http://bit.ly/1gHu6nr.

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