Burleson High School welcomes
its 'American Idol' - Kelly Clarkson
Students swarm local celebrity during three-hour stop at alma mater

Burleson Star Editor

Cool beans!

That's the new catch phrase thanks to Burleson's "American Idol" Kelly Clarkson, who flew back to Texas Wednesday night after she was voted in as a top three finalist on FOX-TV's "American Idol: The Search For A Superstar" (see story, this issue).

The 2000 graduate of Burleson High School got a greeting fit for a superstar when she arrived at BHS Thursday morning. And that was "cool beans."

"I did not expect them to be waiting outside for me, especially in this Texas heat," Clarkson said.

Richard Crummel, the BHS principal, was surprised as well.

"The reaction of the students was even more intense than I thought it would be," Crummel said.

"They were extremely excited about her celebrity status and even more proud of her as a former BHS student."

Clarkson was swarmed by students as she arrived and as she made her way to the office where she reunited with friends, family, and former teachers and administrators.

"So what have you been doing this summer?" teacher Brad Allard cracked as he gave Clarkson a hug.

"Oh, this little show," Clarkson threw back.

It's been a whirlwind since June 25 when Clarkson rocketed to the top three out of 10 finalists (11,000 auditioned for the show) after singing Aretha Franklin's "Respect."

She's been singing her way to the top on national TV, every Tuesday night, since July 16.

At stake is a $2 million recording contract.

"I just rehearse and pray to God that he won't let me screw up on national television," Clarkson said when asked how she prepares.

Her former teachers don't think that's possible. She's been described as "bubbly, outgoing, and sweet," "level headed," and "people oriented."

"I try to be as real as I can be," the 20-year-old Clarkson said.

"I don't try to be one way in front of the camera and one way off camera. I don't want to be fake. I come on national TV with no makeup on (when she's not performing on stage).

"You're going to see it eventually in some Enquirer page, so if I'm not performing, I'm not going to put on a show. I'm just going to be myself."

And her fans love that.

"The students' reactions were really great, very enthusiastic, and supportive," Allard said.

"I think their reactions genuinely reflect the affection they have for her."

Philip Glenn, her high school choir teacher, said the reaction to Kelly's visit was "interesting, and even amusing, to hear kids in the halls saying things like, 'What did she say to you?' or 'I got her autograph!' Even the students in choir who knew her couldn't help getting caught up in the moment. They played it really cool until she started signing autographs."

But personality alone won't cut it in the entertainment industry.

"Her work ethic is wonderful," Cindy Glenn, Clarkson's junior high choir teacher said.

"Kelly has always been a go-getter. She would be working or practicing in her seat when everyone else was talking and laughing. She did not like to waste her time, but she always worked hard and played hard. She gives 100 percent and more to what she does."

Glenn hopes Clarkson's example rubs off on future BHS stars.

"It's not what you have, but how you use it," Glenn said.

"Kelly is honest with herself. She pushes herself to her very best every time she performs. I think that combined with her honesty with people-who she is-makes her star quality."

Clakrson looked every bit a star as an entourage shuttled her from place to place at BHS Thursday. She spoke to the entire student body in the arena where she answered a few questions, accepted a "care package" and Elk antlers from the student body president, and admitted to being late "once or twice" to school.
Assistant Principal Robert Griswold illustrated the real truth by tossing tardy slips into the air.

"OK, maybe I was tardy every day my senior year," Clarkson said.

But that character flaw won't break Clarkson, who Allard said "has the talent and drive. She has always wanted to be a star and now she is. She can handle the fame. She was raised well and has the moral character to withstand the pressures of being famous. And, she certainly has the talent to do it."

Clarkson said being part of the first "American Idol" is the "harshest way to come in but it's the best way because it prepares you. I've already been in the Enquirer and the Globe and I don't even have a CD."

"American Idol" was not Clarkson's first shot at stardom. She had moved to Los Angeles and lived there for four months prior to the premier of the FOX-TV show.

"I worked with "some big people, but he got ill, my apartment burned down, and my car got towed," Clarkson said.

"I took that as a sign and I came home. Then, my friend Jessica and her parents said, 'Hey, there's this thing you should try out for.'"

And the rest is history. Clarkson said after "American Idol" she wants to sing as well as do "behind the scenes stuff, writing scripts, and I do want to do Broadway stuff."

Clarkson, who admits to being "very focused on my career," said her goal is longevity.

Her high school choir teacher is concerned about the future of his former student.

"This whole 'American Idol' thing is both exciting and a little scary," Philip Glenn said.

"I am so glad she was blessed with this opportunity to show her abilities but Kelly is so wonderful that I hope she doesn't get beat up by the industry."

His wife agrees.

"I worry about those kids after the contest because they are so sheltered right now and when it's over the media and public are going to hit them full in the face," Cindy Glenn said.

"I would ask for prayers for her, her family, and her friends. I think fame is a very hard thing to adjust to."

But, Clarkson has a lot going for her. Crummel said his former student is "more mature and polished now."

"She is well grounded in reality," Philip Glenn said.

"She knows her talent is a gift from God and seems to take all the hype with a grain of salt."

Susan Shaha, Clarkson's middle school principal, said "Kelly deserves everything that comes her way. She is very down to earth. I don't think this will go to her head."

Clarkson sang at Scott Shaha and Deidre Shaha's wedding in 1996.

"She is the same person today that she was when Deidre had her in class in the eighth grade. She will handle her new-found fame with class, as we have already seen," Scott Shaha said.

Being part of the "American Idol" cast has given Clarkson something else.

"It's so hard to find trust and good people in the industry but I have over 10 people I can count on. It's nice," Clarkson said.

Crummel, a former band director, is proud of the way Clarkson has brought recognition to the fine arts.

"Students who excel in fine arts need more attention, adoration, and appreciation for their talents. This event has vaulted her to a level where all of America appreciates her musical ability," Crummel said.

"She is having fun and taking this one step at a time. I think America sees the same thing we see . . . a great musician with a ton of genuine personality."



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