Whitney Kropp, 16, was happy at first when she heard she was picked for the homecoming festivities at Ogemaw Heights High School in the farming community of West Branch. Then the sophomore learned it was meant to be a prank, and said she thought she "wasn't worthy. I was this big old joke."
Her free-spirited nature, all-black attire, unusual hair color choices and lack of popularity had set her apart from many other students in the rural school, The Detroit News reported Monday, and the nomination was intended to punctuate that divide.
Kropp said she was saddened to be the butt of a joke, but her mother, sister and grandmother encouraged her not to be bullied and to attend the homecoming football game in traditional formal attire.
"Going to homecoming to show them I'm not a joke. I'm a beautiful person and you shouldn't mess with me!" she wrote on her Facebook page.
Word of the mean prank spread quickly, and a Facebook page of encouragement drew 3,500 messages, more than the town's population of 2,500. A bank account was established for the costs of her homecoming expenses, but was not needed. Local businesses donated gowns, and hair and beauty services.
The homecoming event takes place Friday, what the newspaper describes as the 1976 homecoming horror movie "Carrie," "with a happy ending."