As a young girl, Mercedes Ferreira-Dias grew up watching the double life of Hannah Montana and knew that she wanted something similar. But instead of pop stardom, Ferreira-Dias’s dream was to pursue her love for both academics and art.
Now the 18-year-old Ferreira-Dias has seen her dream come true, as she is enrolling this fall in both Harvard and the Berklee School of Music.
Previously a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, Ferreira-Dias knew her passion was music. But that would not excuse her from reaching academic success.
Unsure of what direction she wanted her life to take, she refused to make a choice between her academic and artistic sides.
“You can imagine how intrigued I was when I found a program that would allow me to explore both very important parts of my identity,” said the resident of Miami Lakes.
The Harvard/Berklee Dual Degree Program is a five-year program where, upon completion, the student receives a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard and a master’s degree from Berklee.
Every artistic experience has taught Ferreira-Dias something new, she said. One of her most memorable experiences was on the stage of The Voice, a reality television singing competition.
Ferreira-Dias found herself returning to Season 15’s blind audition, where coaches Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Jennifer Hudson listened to the contestants in chairs facing away from the stage. This is done to avoid selecting a contestant based on appearance.
Even though she did not make it through this round on the previous season, this time it was different.
Shelton made the move and selected her. And with new confidence, Ferreira-Dias competed on Team Blake until the Battle Rounds, a vocal face-off with a contestant from the same team.
The experience taught her a lot about the entertainment industry, as she was exposed to all of the different aspects that go beyond the immediate musical component, she said.
While her path on The Voice had come to an end, Ferreira-Dias’s accomplishments had merely begun.
Ferreira-Dias’s outstanding grades and extracurricular activities have made her the recipient of various scholarships and awards.
Earlier this year Ferreira-Dias was announced as one of the 161 high school seniors who were selected as U.S. Presidential Scholars. She represented her high school, Mater Lakes Academy, a charter school in Miami-Dade County.
The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recognizes and honors the nation’s top graduating high school seniors. Ferreira-Dias represented Florida as one of the YoungArts winners.
“When I saw my picture in the collage of amazing young artists, I was overwhelmed by emotion,” she recalls.
Ferreira-Dias believes her community involvement plays a big factor as to why she received the award.
“In high school, I had the pleasure of kickstarting two projects, co-founding the Women’s Empowerment Club and Gay-Straight Alliance,” she said.
Other extracurriculars such as Honor Society, Glee Club and Student Government also played a role.
“I think these coupled with other artistic experiences made me a good choice for Presidential Scholars,” said Ferreira-Dias.
The Mater Lakes Academy valedictorian gives credit to her parents and mentors for allowing her to chase her dreams.
“We are proud of her and all she has accomplished,” said her school principal, Rene Rovirosa, as he proudly gave her a kiss on the cheek at the Miami Lakes Council meeting on May 14.
“She is simply one of the most talented students the school has and kindest person I know,” said Ayleen Charles, Ferreira-Dias’s American History teacher and music mentor.
“The Voice instilled a confidence in me that I never knew I had,” said Ferreira-Dias. “It gave me hope that I was walking in the right direction and encouraged me to run towards it.”