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After scaling the heights of instant show-business celebrity, "American Idol" finalist John Stevens IV, was back at his high school today, where the faculty and about 1,000 of his closest school pals held an early-morning rally in the Williamsville East High School gymnasium for the carrot-topped crooner.

And what's at the top of the agenda for America's reigning teen heartthrob? Why, the prom, of course. But the 16-year-old wasn't saying just whom he will be taking.

"That's classified," Stevens told reporters gathered in the school auditorium after the rally.

It's been quite a ride for the shy redhead, who beat out thousands of other hopefuls from around the country to appear on the show. He was plucked from obscurity only four months ago when the panel of judges on the Fox reality TV show selected him as one 12 finalists, one of whom each week is eliminated after the tabulation of telephone votes by home viewers.

Despite considerable drubbing in the national media, Stevens seemed to amass quite a fan base among viewers before becoming the sixth contestant booted from the show last week. Meanwhile, his base of support at Williamsville East is steadfast.

"John, you've shown us that you can sing. You're incredible. We know it. America knows it," said Patrick Newell, senior class president, addressing this morning's rally. "But something that makes you a better American Idol than anyone else out there is because you respect other people. You respected the judges. You respected America. You respected your family,"

Stevens even took some good-natured ribbing from Principal Neal Miller, who, unable to offer Stevens the key to the city, instead offered him the key to the school elevator for the day.

"You became famous right before our very eyes, but more than that, you've bridged the gap between young children looking for a role model and elderly people who remember what wholesome entertainment used to be," Miller said.

"I'm just amazed at the support that I'm getting from the school, the community, the whole town. It's unbelieveable," Stevens said after the rally.

So far, Stevens said, he has noticed little change in how his school mates have been reacting to him since his return home. "I've only spent time with my friends, and there seems to be no change there," he said.

Among the highlights, so far, have been his appearances on the David Letterman and Conan O'Brien shows.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com