WEST BRANCH, Mich. -- In a red, ruffled dress and flowers in her hair, Whitney Kropp, the Michigan high school student picked by her classmates to be on her school’s homecoming court as a prank, took to her school’s football stadium Friday for the ceremony.
“I had thoughts about not coming, but you know what, I’m glad I changed my mind and actually came out,” Kropp told NBC News.
Kropp's appearance was met with thunderous applause and camera flashes from her fellow students at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, Mich., and even members of the opposing team.
At Kropp’s side was Josh Awrey, the class of 2015’s male representative, the Bay City Times reported.
After the ceremony, Kropp, who said she had been bullied throughout her time in high school, told reporters that she was glad she decided to remain on the court.
“I’m overwhelmed," Kropp said. "I’m so happy – this is so much right now for me. The school is fantastic they treated me so well."
Kropp said last month she was initially surprised to learn that her classmates nominated her to be in the running for her school’s homecoming queen. But she said she soon felt humiliated and betrayed when she found out that it was all a joke.
“People had bullied on me, I guess, for my looks, how I did my hair, how I dress, my height, so I guess they thought, you know, maybe someone that is different is someone that’s an easy target,” Kropp said.
But, Kropp said she pulled through with the support of her mother and the rest of the town.
"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," Kropp's mother Bernice Kropp 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.
A salon owner in West Branch donated service to cut, color and style Kropp's hair, and other local businesses paid for her dinner, gown, shoes and tiara for the dance.
Before the game, a local company even made T-shirts in support of Kropp in her favorite color, orange, adding to the messages of encouragement that Kropp says helped her prevail.
“The kids that are bullying you do not let them bring you down," she said. "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.”