Dale G. Young / The Detroit News
Whitney Kropp was named to the homecoming court as a joke by her classmates, but the tiny farm town of West Branch, Mich. has rallied around her.
Whitney Kropp, a sophomore at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, Mich., said she was surprised to learn that she was picked by her classmates to be in the running for her school's homecoming queen.
"I never thought I would be part of it because, really, it's just for, like, the big popular people," Kropp, 16, told NBC News' Kevin Tibbles on TODAY.
But she was soon humiliated when she learned Sept. 13 that her selection to the homecoming court had been part of a prank by other students. She said students pointed at her in the hallways and laughed, and the boy who was picked with her withdrew.
"Some kids thought it would be funny just to put me in there as a joke to make fun of me," Kropp said.
But Whitney's ridicule didn't stop didn't there. Her mother, Bernice Kropp, told NBC News on Monday that the bullying continued on Facebook.
Kropp said her daughter, a sophomore, had been picked on before at school, but not to the extent of the peer vote that selects students to the court, which traditionally names a queen, king and princes and princesses from each class. The high school has about 800 students.
"I felt like I wasn't worthy. Why even be a part of this community, this world if I'm just going to be tossed around like basically a piece of trash?" Whitney Kropp said.
But then, her mother said, "other kids started coming up to her and saying, ‘Whitney, don't let them stop you from going to homecoming. You need to go ahead, you need to do it.'"
Bernice Kropp described her daughter as quiet, polite and kind, rarely finding fault with peers and people. She said Whitney has decided to attend the dance despite the prank as businesses and neighbors in the tiny farming town have rallied around Whitney.
Kropp said Whitney even has a date for the dance this Saturday, "and it's her boyfriend who has been very quiet and supportive through all of this."
"You want to protect your kid, and you feel angry and mad at what has happened, but at the same time the outpouring to help her has been beyond expected," she said.
Word spread quickly through the community of about 2,100 residents in West Branch. Resident Jamie Kline started a Facebook support page, gaining more than 4,000 likes in Michigan and nationwide. Personal stories of bullying and messages of encouragement filled the page, among them:
"You go, girl! From here in California, it looks like you won the vote legitimately but some of your "friends" got jealous and nasty about it. Their "joke" never really happened! Hold your head high and have a good time," Raymond Puffer.
"Whitney YOU are a beautiful gal inside and out and dont ever let anyone tell you any different," Karen Morrison Gross.
"I am so proud of this young lady ((((You GO, Girl))))), her family and the awesome community we share! It's high time we ALL take a stand against bullies. They come in all sizes, ages and social arenas. Be Kind ALWAYS," Ginger Warren.
Jen Case, who is with Whit's End Salon in West Branch, said the salon owner donated services to cut, color and style Kropp's hair. "Bullying is a big thing and we wanted to turn this into a positive moment," Case said.
Other local businesses are paying for Whitney's dinner, gown, shoes and a tiara for the dance.
"We live in this community and we're about the community and giving back," Case told NBC News. "We wanted to help this young lady have a special night."
"I'm excited to go because I can prove everyone wrong and say, you know, I'm not this joke that you guys thought of. You guys doing this has made me stronger and I've got more self-esteem than what I had," Whitney Kropp said.