updated 11/04/2011 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 11/04/2011 AT 3:00 PM ET
InTENsity, Paula Abdul’s pop group of 10 youngsters, broke down in tears when they became the first top 12 act eliminated from The X Factor Thursday. But Abdul and co-judge Simon Cowell have a hopeful message for the kids: Keep pursuing music.
“I think there’s a market for them,” Cowell said. “I do, and I said to them, even at their age, you’ve got to stay strong here and tenacity is what it’s all about. I really like them.”
Abdul agreed: “They’re only going to get better and better and the [X Factor] experience … is a master class for kids who have never done this.”
Though the members, who became a group on the show, say they intend to stay together, they admit that all living in different parts of the country may pose a problem. But regardless of what happens down the road, they agree participating in The X Factor was a positive experience overall.
“We worked really hard and we had so many fans and we’re just excited to see what’s going to happen in the future for our group,” member Francesca Duncan, who said she was “kind of surprised” about the elimination, told PEOPLE.
Finding themselves in the bottom two along with Abdul’s R&B boy band, Stereo Hogzz, was particularly difficult, according to John Lindahl.
“We’re all such good friends and they’ve all been so nice,” he said. “Not one of us wanted to leave. [It] was just the worst feeling in the world and it’s all been a blessing. We’re so thankful for every moment we’ve spent on this show. I’m going to miss everyone.”
Before performing “My Life Would Suck Without You” as a last chance to stay on the show, Lauren Ashley said the group cried backstage, but “everyone was giving each other pep talks and we got through it.”
They weren’t the only ones having a tough time with the decision. As Cowell told PEOPLE of the remaining contestants, “I don’t want to lose anyone.”