If he wasn't a finalist on 'American Idol,' Scotty McCreery's junior year of high school would still be unusual compared to that of the average 17-year-old's. According to one of his teachers at Garner High School in Garner, N.C., McCreery took an active roll in any group that would have him.

“He's the kind of person that people are attracted to and want to be around and do things with," Jill Cottengim, an English teacher and advisor to the Student Counsel at GHS, tells Taste of Country. She says that McCreery was set to be a counselor for a leadership retreat before leaving for Hollywood. He'd been a part of the retreat in the past, and his presence was felt last April despite the thousands of miles between California and North Carolina.

“He was definitely on our minds, and I think we were on his, too, because he was texting us and wanting to know how things were going,” she says. Carole King's 'You've Got a Friend' is used as a theme song for one of the weekend sessions, so it was no surprise to Cottengim that her former student chose that song to sing during the Carole King round a few weeks later. "It had some special meaning for him, too," she adds.

As a student, McCreery earned an 'A' in Cottengim's speech class. She describes him as a natural who often incorporated music into his speeches, even using his guitar as a memory aid. “He put his [speech] to song so that he could memorize it,” she says. “It was funny because he came in and he kept singing it over and over before he had to present it.”

Watch Scotty McCreery Sing 'You've Got a Friend'