High school student Whitney Kropp was shocked earlier this month when she was named to the homecoming court. Her happy surprise turned to humiliation when she learned the reason. The students thought it would be funny if the popularity contest was won by someone who was unpopular. Kids pointed at her in the hallways and laughed. The boy who was picked with her withdrew. Students told her that, in case she was wondering why the boy had dropped out, he was uncomfortable being linked with her. “I thought I wasn’t worthy,” said Kropp, 16. “I was this big old joke.”
Her embarrassment was complete, but it didn’t last long. A tiny farm town an hour north of Saginaw quickly rallied around her. For the homecoming dance, businesses will buy her dinner, take her photo, fix her hair and nails, and dress her in a gown, shoes and a tiara. For the homecoming game, residents will pack the football stadium so they can cheer when she is introduced at halftime. They will be wearing her favorite color (orange) and T-shirts with messages of support. A 68-year-old grandmother offered to be her escort. “I am in awe, overwhelmed at the amount of support,” said Jamie Kline, 35, who began a Facebook support page. “I never expected it to spread as far as it has.”
For Kropp, a sophomore at Ogemaw Heights High, it’s been a remarkable transformation. Before the homecoming vote, she was either ignored or scorned by classmates. Now, when she isn’t fielding yet another free offer from a business, she’s being lauded by hundreds of strangers on the support page. Cast in an unlikely role, she has embraced it. She vowed to continue representing the sophomore class, even if she has to do it alone.
“In the Homecoming Court! :)” Kropp wrote on her Facebook page. “Little nervous but this is going to be fun :D”
“Probably not with Josh though,” wrote back a sophomore girl.
“He couldnt do it cause of football plus he never goes to homecoming,” said Kropp.
“That’s not what he told everybody,” said the girl.
“what did he say?” asked Kropp.
The other girl didn’t respond.
“Oh. Well it don’t matter to me anyways,” Kropp wrote four minutes later. “I thought it would be awkward anyways.”
That night, Kropp’s mom found her crying in her bedroom. She no longer wanted to do it. Kropp’s mom, sister and grandmother told her that she should show up the bullies by going to the game and having a great time. Several friends said the same thing. Before going to bed, she decided they were right.
“Going to homecoming to show them that I’m not a joke,” she wrote on Facebook. “Im a beautiful person and you shouldn’t mess with me!”
Word of the prank quickly spread through this small town. Kropp’s sister told her friends, who told their parents, who told their friends. The Facebook support page was created, quickly drawing hundreds of messages of encouragement. The page has more likes (more than 3,500) than the town has people (2,100). A bank account was opened for Kropp’s homecoming expenses but wasn’t needed. So many businesses donated services that everything was covered.
After the uproar in town and on the Web, Awrey, the football player elected with Kropp, changed his mind and decided to remain a class rep.
It’s hard to eclipse high school football in a small town but West Branch will give it a try. Residents will fill the concrete stands behind the high school for the homecoming game against Cadillac High. Some are grads who haven’t been to a game in decades. Many won’t be there for the football. Clutching posters and wearing T-shirts that say “Team Whitney,” they will cheer heartily at halftime.