Team Whitney and the Biggest Star of the Evening

In September 2012, Whitney Kropp, age 16, was named to Ogemaw Heights High School’s homecoming court in West Branch, Michigan. Unfortunately, she was voted in because students thought it would be funny if someone who wasn’t a part of the popular crowd was voted in. Students laughed at her. The boy—a football player—chosen to represent the class with her withdrew. Whitney said, “I thought I wasn’t worthy. I was this big old joke.” But the town rallied around her. (Something similar happened to author Chris Crutcher’s class when he was a boy; you can read about it in his autobiography King of the Mild Frontier.) Businesses have contributed their services to her; they are paying her or giving her dinner, photographs, hairdressing, manicure, gown, shoes, and tiara. The football game in which she will be introduced at halftime will be packed with supporters wearing her favorite color—orange—and T-shirts bearing messages of support, such as “Team Whitney.” Jamie Kline, age 35, who began a Facebook support page for her, said, “I am in awe, overwhelmed at the amount of support. I never expected it to spread as far as it has.” The town has 2,100 residents; the Facebook page has over 3,500 likes—make that over 96,000 likes as of 29 September 2012. When asked to describe her daughter, Bernice Kropp said, “The first thing is softhearted. She’s just sweet. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.” When Whitney found out that the votes for her were a joke, she wrote on Facebook, “Going to homecoming to show them that I’m not a joke. I’m a beautiful person and you shouldn’t mess with me!” Shannon Champagne, age 28, a nail tech at Whit’s End Hair Studio, said, “It really touched me. I can’t believe that kids can be so mean and ruthless. In high school, everything means everything to you. You don’t realize that none of it will matter after you leave.” The football player changed his mind and decided not to withdraw as class rep. In an article for The Detroit News, Francis X. Donnelly wrote about Whitney, “ A pariah in the harshest social system in the world—high school—she will be the center of attention on one of its most prominent stages. Under the Friday night lights, she will shine the brightest of all, the biggest star of the evening.” On 28 September 2012, Whitney wore a red dress, sported a new hairstyle, and held a bouquet of flowers as she attended the coronation of the homecoming court. She said, “I had thoughts about not coming [still tonight]. I just thought maybe I won’t have fun, but … I’m having actually a lot of fun right now.” She added, “I’m so happy—this is so much right now for me.” Her mother, Bernice, said, “I am so proud right now—wow.” Whitney said that the targets of bullies ought “not [to] let them bring you down. 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!” Bernice said, “It is absolutely awesome to see her stand up. And it’s so cool to see e-mails … we’re getting from parents and other students from all over the place telling her stories and how it helped them and it touched them. My daughter is out there as an inspiration to a lot of people, and it’s a really cool thing.” Whitney said, “I thought before, ‘Oh, no one cares about me.’ I thought not even my own brother and sister care. But they’re proving [to] 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.” Her sister, Alivia, said, “I told her … you’ve got the courage, you’ve got the strength to go do it, so go do it and have fun.” Whitney had cried after she discovered that her election to the homecoming court was a prank. Alivia said, “It’s very hard to see someone hurt and upset, and you want to do everything in your power to make sure they’re not that way.”

For Further Information: Francis X. Donnelly, “Town turns tables on school prank.” The Detroit News. 24 September 2012

<http://tinyurl.com/8cxprm7

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Also: Chris Welch, “Bullied Michigan teen shines as homecoming princess.” CNN. 29 September 2012

<http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/29/us/michigan-teen-prank/index.html>.

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