Grab the tissues, Mom. You know those all-too-rare stories that restore your faith in humanity? This is one of those.
It's the story of Whitney Kropp, a small-town Michigan teen whose peers nominated her to homecoming court (making her a finalist for homecoming queen) -- as a mean joke. Whitney is described as "a free spirit with few friends. Her black outfits and strange hair colors don't mesh well with other kids in the rural community."
As Whitney's mother says, "She's just sweet. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body."
Well, once Whitney got wind of her nomination being a "big old joke," she was briefly embarrassed. And then she got her optimistic groove back. "Going to homecoming to show thm that I'm not a joke," she declared on Facebook. "I'm a beautiful person and you shouldn't mess with me!"
Her tiny farm town of West Branch, Michigan, gradually heard about the high schoolers' cruel intentions (mostly thanks to a "Support Whitney Kropp" Facebook page set up by a woman from the town) and rallied around Whitney.
Local businesses offered up everything from dinner before homecoming, to salon services, a beautiful gown and shoes, and even homecoming photos. Empathetic adults offered to escort Whitney to the homecoming game, where she'll be driven around the football field with the rest of the homecoming court. And thousands of supporters plan to attend the homecoming game, sporting orange (her favorite color) "Team Whitney" T-shirts and cheering her on.
In the week-and-a-half since it was created, the Facebook page for Whitney has more than 600,000 fans. How awesome is that?
It's great to see adults stepping up to the plate for a bullied (and cyberbullied) young person. While every town (or parent) won't rally behind bullying victims like this, and Whitney will probably return to some of the cruel realities of high school after this encouraging time, her story serves as a reminder -- for her and other teens having a tough time -- that high school is just four years of your life. So much that happens within the walls of high school -- from the awkward changes of puberty to the ugly popularity contests and cliques -- will mean very little someday soon.
Sure, prom and homecoming and the painful social hierarchy of the high school cafeteria are very relevant to teens at the time. But, kids: Unless you run for office someday, you'll never again be put up for a nomination/vote/popularity contest. You will settle into your adult body. You won't be shoved around (or you will be taken more seriously by authorities if you are). You will learn that high school should not be the highlight of one's life (see Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion for reference). You will find people to connect with on your terms -- not defined by school district lines. You will shine.
Here's hoping that every bullied kid can channel some of Whitney's resilience. And that her inspiring story spreads and turns around some mean teens.