It was a cruel prank.
Students at Ogemaw Heights High in West Branch, Michigan, named sophomore Whitney Kropp as a member of the school's homecoming court earlier this month. Kropp, 16, soon learned her classmates voted for her because they thought it would be funny if an unpopular student won the annual popularity contest.
"Some kids thought it would be funny just to put me in there as a joke to make fun of me," Kropp told NBC News' Kevin Tibbles on TODAY.
Students laughed at her. The boy who was named as the other sophomore rep withdrew from homecoming court. Bullies on Facebook told Kropp that his withdrawal was because he didn't want to be associated with her.
The town quickly rallied around the bullied teen, determined to give her a homecoming to remember — for good reasons.
For the homecoming dance this Saturday, local businesses will provide Kropp with dinner, a photo session, hair services, a manicure, gown, shoes and a tiara.
"It really touched me. I can't believe that kids can be so mean and ruthless," Shannon Champagne, a nail tech at Whit's End Hair Studio, told the Detroit News. "In high school, everything means everything to you. You don't realize that none of it will matter after you leave."
Jen Case, who works at Whit's End Salon in West Branch, said the salon owner donated services to cut, color and style Kropp's hair for the event:
"Bullying is a big thing and we wanted to turn this into a positive moment."
For the homecoming game on Friday, West Branch residents will pack the stadium, wearing "Team Whitney" T-shirts, just to cheer for Kropp when she's introduced at halftime.
There are now over 42,000 likes for the Facebook page created in support of Whitney.
"I'm excited to go because I can prove everyone wrong and say, you know, I'm not this joke that you guys thought of. You guys doing this has made me stronger and I've got more self-esteem than what I had," Kropp said.
Kropp's mother, Bernice, told TODAY that Whitney has a date for the dance: "it's her boyfriend who has been very quiet and supportive through all of this."
"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," she added.
The school district is investigating the incident.