WEST BRANCH, Mich. — Whitney Kropp, the teen thrust into the spotlight after her peers nominated her for the school homecoming court as a prank, attended coronation Friday night surrounded by cheering fans.
Donning a red dress, she beamed as she clutched a bouquet of flowers.
“I had thoughts about not coming [still tonight],” the 16-year-old told reporters after halftime of the homecoming game.
“I just thought maybe I won’t have fun, but … I’m having actually a lot of fun right now.”
“I’m so happy — this is so much right now for me,” she added.
Speaking to reporters after the halftime ceremonies, Kropp had nothing but praise for her school — in spite of what a select few students did.
“The school is fantastic. They treated me so well here and I couldn’t ask for more.”
Her mother, Bernice Kropp, was all smiles.
“I am so proud right now, wow,” she said standing alongside her daughter.
When asked whether she had a message for other kids who deal with bullying, the teen said it’s important to “not 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!”
Earlier this month, when she realized the whole thing was a prank, Kropp, a sophomore at Ogemaw Heights High School near West Branch, Michigan, said she became suicidal and felt “like trash.”
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,” she said Thursday.
The West Branch-Rose City Area Schools superintendent, Dan Cwayna, declined CNN’s request for comment.
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, and a local hairstylist to give her a new ‘do’ for the big event.
“Every girl looks forward to being on that homecoming court and for her name to be called,” said hairstylist Shannon Champagne, who did her hair. “For her to be so excited about that and then just to find out that it was all just a joke, it just — it really touched me.”
A Facebook support page created for her has more than 96,000 “likes.”
Sitting on her front porch in rural Michigan, the teen 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,” 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 outpouring of support 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 was at halftime of the football game Friday night. The dance, something she and her boyfriend have been looking forward to all year, is Saturday.