WEST BRANCH, Michigan (CNN) — A Michigan teen is making the most of a homecoming prank that she says left her feeling suicidal.
Whitney Kropp — a self-described outcast with just a handful of close friends at Ogemaw Heights High School — was picked to be the female representative of the sophomore class royalty. It certainly came as a shock.
But hours later, the 16-year-old learned classmates voted for her as a joke. She spent the night in tears.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, I feel like trash,'” Kropp said. “I feel like I’m a little thing that no one really cares about.”
That night, she said, she contemplated ending her life “right here right now.”
But thanks to a push from her family and friends, she decided to embrace what happened and turn the tables.
“I can just prove all these kids wrong … I’m not the joke everyone thinks I am.”
West Branch-Rose City Area Schools superintendent, Dan Cwayna, declined CNN’s request for an interview.
Opting to stay on the homecoming court was a tough decision, Kropp said. That bold move prompted local businesses to donate her homecoming gown and shoes, while a salon gave her hair a new ‘do.’ A Facebook support page created for her has more than 96,000 “likes.”
Sitting on her front porch in rural Michigan, Kropp held her head high with what her mom described as a new and overwhelming sense of confidence.
“It is absolutely awesome to see her stand up,” a beaming Bernice Kropp said. “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.”
The teen says the reactions caught her off guard.
“I thought before, ‘Oh, no one cares about me,”’ she said. “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, her sister, Alivia Kropp, was the first person to spread the word and encourage her to speak out:
“I told her … you’ve got the courage, you’ve got the strength to go do it, so go do it and have fun,” she said.
She said the night her sister spent crying was horrible.
“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,” Alivia Kropp said.
Homecoming coronation will take place at halftime of the football game Friday night, where the teen’s smile will be front and center as family — and an entire community — surround her with support. The dance — something she and her boyfriend have been looking forward to all year — is Saturday.
When asked where she got the courage to stand up unashamed in front of the whole world, she pointed to her heart.
By Chris Welch