(TheBlaze/AP) — A Michigan community cheered on a 16-year-old sophomore – the victim of an apparent prank by classmates – as she took her place with other members of her high school’s homecoming court.
Whitney Kropp was escorted by her father and grandfather onto the Ogemaw Heights High School football field Friday night in West Branch, about 140 miles northwest of Detroit, after finding out her classmates decided to nominate her as a prank.
“Every girl looks forward to being on that homecoming court and for her name to be called,” hairstylist Shannon Champagne, who did Kropp’s hair, commented. “For her to be so excited about that and then just to find out that it was all just a joke, it just — it really touched me.”
Kropp’s story soon sparked national interest and on Friday, residents and business owners turned out to the game to show their support and help take a stand against bullying.
Orange T-shirts – Kropp’s favorite color – have been sold with the slogan “It’s not cool to be cruel.”
“It’s just so much right now for me,” Kropp said Friday night. “I had thoughts about not coming but I actually changed my mind and came out. I just thought maybe I won’t have fun. But I’m having a lot of fun right now.”
She added: “I thought before, ‘Oh, no one cares about me…I thought not even my own brother and sister care. But they’re proving me they do care. The world is proving they do, well not really care about me, but they care about the situation. So I’m happy. I’m really honored.”
In fact, according to CNN, Kropp’s sister was one of the first people to spread the word about the situation.
“I told her … you’ve got the courage, you’ve got the strength to go do it, so go do it and have fun,” Alivia Kropp explained.
CNN has more, including video of the ceremony:
Kropp’s gown, jewelry, shoes, hair styling and makeup were donated by the community.
“The kids that are bullying, do not let them bring you down,” the girl told reporters. “Stand up for what you believe in, and go with your heart and go with your gut. That’s what I did, and look at me now. I’m just as happy as can be.”
Many in the stands, even students from visiting Cadillac, wore orange, as did Kropp.
“It wasn’t right what they did to her,” said Alexis Dahlstrom, a 16-year-old Cadillac junior. “We wanted her to know that there are people out there who support her.”
Dahlstrom and her friends learned about Kropp’s story on Facebook.
“Whitney is strong. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to go,” 15-year-old Ogemaw Heights sophomore Heather Oyster said.
Ogemaw Heights won the homecoming game, 24-21, over Cadillac.