"I thought I wasn't worthy. I was this big old joke," 16-year-old Whitney Kropp told The Detroit News about her selection to homecoming court.
And she was right — though not for long.
What started out as a nasty prank by Ogemaw Heights High School bullies to humiliate the West Branch, Michigan teen, transformed into an outpouring of support the likes of which the small farming town has never seen.
Pointing and laughing in the high school's hallways soon gave way to words of encouragement from classmates swimming against the current.
"She was getting ridiculed in school and on Facebook," Whitney's mother, Bernice Kropp told NBC News. "But then the 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.'"
The support eventually extended to the rest of the town, where the "quiet, polite and kind" sophomore is being pampered by local businesses looking to pay for all her homecoming needs, from hairstyling to dinner to a shiny tiara.
Word spread far beyond the borders of West Branch to the rest of the nation through Facebook, where a "Team Whitney" support page has nearly 40,000 likes and counting.
"You want to protect your kid, and you feel angry and mad at what has happened," Kropp said. "But at the same time the outpouring to help her has been beyond expected."
[screengrab via YouTube]