MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Maria Wirries is only 16 years old, and she's already accomplished a lot in her short life. And she’s about to take a giant step from Bradenton to the big time.
Of course she's going to pause along the way for an education. But when you hear her sing, you'll understand why she's today's Amazing Suncoast Woman.
With an incredible voice and an amazing work ethic, at 16 she's already finished high school. "Manatee School from the Arts, Manatee Technical Institute GED program."
And she's off to Penn State in the fall to study musical theatre in their Broadway Prepatory Program.
She also writes music. "And I'm also interested in politics and working in international affairs."
Maria was born in Haiti. "My dad was down there; he was a missionary for 15 years, and he met my biological mother. And she wasn't able to care for me when he passed away when I was 4 months old; so my aunt, who was my father's sister, came to Haiti and brought me to America."
Her aunt became her mom and quickly discovered she had a very talented daughter.
She first sang in front of an audience in pre-school. "We had a talent show, and I sang ‘I've Been Working on the Railroad.’ And after everybody applauded at the end I was so excited. I loved it."
She made her acting debut at age 11 in "High School Musical 2" at the Manatee Players summer camp for kids. "I fell in love with being on stage and working with a group…I did a lot of solos; that feeling of family and camaraderie was just so wonderful.”
Once she hit the stage, her fame grew and she's in great demand. "I perform at the Van Wezel with the Sarasota Orchestra. I've had a great time working with them. I performed with Gloria musical."
She's also performed at the Sarasota Players and in venues from ballparks to ballrooms.
She started ice skating at age 3 and performs in many ice shows.
Her mom has been with her every step of the way. "I always have this great support system in my mom, and she's always believed in me. And I said ‘I have this crazy idea’; she says ‘no, it's not crazy. You can do it.’ I've been so fortunate to have her."
And as young as she is, she's already learned some important lessons. “Keep going, keep dreaming. No dream is too big. Just live life and learn everything you can while it’s there and just enjoy yourself."
Before she heads off to college, Maria will perform a final concert at the Glen Ridge Performing Arts Theatre on August 9th called Maria Takes Flight.