"Dreams really do come true ... anything is possible, so just make it happen."
Syesha Mercado spoke these inspiring words to students at Booker High School in her hometown of Sarasota, Fla., last week. As a top three finalist on this season's "American Idol," Mercado knows all about "making it happen."
When asked what her happiest moment was on the "American Idol" Web site, Mercado said, "Making the top 24 it took many obstacles to overcome to make it here."
Adversity can definitely make or break someone. For Mercado, it gave her the strength to push herself week to week. And Mercado is no stranger to adversity. Besides overcoming musical obstacles on the show, she has been jumping personal hurdles for quite some time.
Not only has she been an inspiration to fans and friends but also to members of her family who have had rough going in their lives. Her father, Jose, has struggled with alcohol and drug addiction; he's been arrested multiple times since 1993; and he's served prison time.
Her mother, Zelda, has also been arrested several times and served time for a probation violation. But despite her parents' rocky lives, Mercado was somehow able to stay positive and it paid off.
"Welcome to your dream, Syesha," judge Paula Abdul said two weeks ago after Mercado finished singing "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cook. "This song took on a totally different meaning for me," an emotional Mercado said. "I feel like I've changed a lot."
This past week, Mercado visited her hometown and saw her parents again and they are doing well.
"I struggled through drugs and alcohol for years, and this is like a natural high for me," said Jose Mercado. "This gives me a purpose and a reason to stay clean."
"I feel so happy," a tearful Syesha Mercado said as she drove away. "I didn't expect this. This is so good!"
As Mercado exited the competition Wednesday night, leaving the two Davids David Archuleta of Murray and David Cook of Blue Springs, Mo. to compete head-to-head, host Ryan Seacrest asked if she had any last words to the people that supported her.
"I don't know what to say. There are too many words," Mercado said. "So, thank you. Just thank you."
She won't be gone for long. In addition to a budding career in the music industry, we'll definitely see more of her soon like next week, as the finale kicks off!
This was one of my favorite times. All of the top 12 contestants are reunited, and we just get to have fun!
This year's finale will take place at the NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. But back in Season 2, we performed at Universal Studios. Rehearsals were a ball. There was never a dull moment.
I remember when Kim Caldwell, Julia DeMato and I heard that the three of us were going to sing "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John. We were pretty surprised at the choice of song and a little uncomfortable, to be honest.
During rehearsal one day, as we were singing our different parts, Rickey Smith (top eight) decided to lighten the mood a bit and started doing jumping jacks as soon as the chorus started. Pretty soon, the other contestants joined in, and everyone around us was doing aerobics as we struggled to get through the song without laughing.
After the show, we were given a private limo for the night. After parties, interviews and red-carpet appearances, we were exhausted.
Saying goodbye to everyone on the show felt so weird. After all, they had become our family. It's been five years since the Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken finale and I've forgotten a lot of details. I should have kept a better journal.
But there are certain memories that will stay with me forever, such as looking out into the audience and thinking, "I can't believe I'm up here doing this!" Looking at the other contestants around me and watching the new ones each season is overwhelming. We all come from different backgrounds, have different stories.
But for a short few months, we were all working toward one goal, living our dreams together. And in a strange way, we all feel bonded to each other, whether or not we've met.Being on "American Idol" was one of the most pivotal times of my life, and it doesn't matter what the contestants do or where they choose to go from here they can always look back and say, "I did it. I actually caught my dream."
Utah recording artist and actress Carmen Rasmusen-Herbert came in sixth place during the second season of "American Idol." She wrote about her experiences in her book, "Staying in Tune." Her first full album is "Nothin' Like the Summer," featuring the single of the same name.