Town lifts victim of school bullies
It appears that in America the popular kids sometimes really do get nasty and vote a less well-liked classmate into a glamorous role for a joke.
In a scene that could have been straight out of the movies or television, it happened to 16-year-old Whitney Kropp, a high school student in a small Michigan town.
But as news of the mean-spirited prank spread, Kropp found herself buoyed by a wave of support which will see her well and truly getting the last laugh.
A second year student at Ogemaw Heights High, about an hour north of Saginaw, Kropp was sitting in geometry class when the results of the homecoming vote were announced on the school PA system.
To her surprise she had been chosen as a class representative on the homecoming court, members of which will be dressed formally and introduced during halftime at the 800-student school's football game this Friday.
Kropp had not sought the position but was still excited.
Perhaps she should have been suspicious, The Detroit News reported. Kropp stands out in the small rural community. With her black outfits and strange hair colours she is a free spirit with few friends.
She learned she had been selected because some students thought it would be funny if the popularity contest was won by someone who was unpopular.
Other students pointed at her in the hallways and laughed.
Then something wonderful happened. The small town started rallying around her.
Kropp's sister told her friends, who told their parents, who told their friends.
A Facebook support page was created, drawing hundreds of messages of encouragement, and donations from businesses provided Kropp with everything she needed.
For the homecoming game, residents wearing Kropp's favourite colour orange will pack the football stadium to cheer her when she is introduced at halftime.
For Saturday's 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.
Mum Bernice said Kropp had a guilelessness that did not see the bad in people, describing her daughter as soft-hearted and sweet.
One night she had found Kropp crying in her bedroom, no longer wanting to be the rep. Along with Kropp's sister and grandmother, she convinced her daughter she should show up the bullies by going to the game and having a good time.
Before going to bed that night, Kropp 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!"
Among those helping out is beauty salon worker Shannon Champagne and a colleague, who offered their services and asked other businesses to do the same.
"It really touched me. I can't believe that kids can be so mean and ruthless," Champagne said. "In high school, everything means everything to you. You don't realise that none of it will matter after you leave."
Josh Awrey, a popular football player chosen as the other sophomore rep alongside Kropp, initially withdrew from the position but changed his mind after the uproar in the town and on the web.
On his Facebook page he said he had never wanted to be part of homecoming.
"Im sick of everyone blaming me. I had nothing to do with this," he wrote. "I think what they (students) did is rlly rude and immature."
The school district has said it is investigating the incident.