(SARASOTA) – The American Idol season seven contestant #67235 who wowed Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul with her spot on soulful delivery of Aretha Franklin’s “Think Freedom” is returning home to rate the performances of talented teens at the 2017 Greatest Beyond Measure Teen Idol contest. Top finalist Syesha Mercado is a guest judge and will perform at the 2017 GBM Idol Talent Showcase where young entertainers compete for cash prizes. The first place winner will receive $500. The event will be held Saturday, July 29 at Ringling College of Art and Design, the event’s sponsor.

Singer, songwriter and Broadway actress believes in the mission of GBM. She met its founder Melanie Thomas through a program called Team Success.

“I’ve been a supporter of how [Thomas] aims to ignite a spirit of excellence and greatness in our youth,”

said Mercado. “ Through Team Success, a wonderful mentor with Take Stock in Children Barbara Johnson and the Booker VPA Theatre Department I was given the information and tools that I needed to pursue my goals. For many teens in and around Sarasota, that is what GBM does for them.”

After meeting Thomas, the GBM choir and band performed with the entertainer at several concert venues.

“I’ll always cherish those memories and keep in touch with many of the students,”

Mercado added.

The American Idol finalist says the television show created opportunities that led to performances stateside and worldwide. These days, much of her time is spent in recording studios working on original music with producers Etienne Porter (@iametiennej), owner of Sarasota-based Drummerboy Productions, Inc. and Raj Makhija (@cookedbyraj) in New Jersey. After long days inside a booth, the great outdoors is a great source of rest, relaxation and reflection.

The Sarasota native is anxious to encourage and pass on advice to teens, ages 12 to 19 hoping to break into the entertainment industry.

“All the tools that you need to succeed are within you. Sometimes the person you are waiting on is you (with emphasis)). Connect with your roots, your soul and find what moves you. Follow your bliss. That’s where the magic happens.”

Sam Woolf is also a judge. The 20 year-old folk/pop singer was a finalist on American Idol’s 2014 Season where he placed in the Top 5. The songwriter is known for his original arrangements, beautiful pitch perfect tone and emotional original songs. His performances and recordings on YouTube have millions of views and “WOOLFPACK” fans. An original song by Woolf called “Pretend” debuted at #9 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart.

For a full schedule of events, visit mygbm.net or FB. Registration is $7 for teens, age 12-19. General admission for evening events is $7. Parents and the public are invited.