Being elected Homecoming King or Queen is an accolade that many teenagers dream about. Given that high school is a time when adolescents are still forming their senses of self, that kind of validation can be extremely comforting. Of course, it can be highly anxiety-inducing to those who are excluded from the popular crowd.
One Michigan teenager, however, discovered that being chosen for such an award can actually destroy a person’s burgeoning self esteem. At first the victim of a cruel prank, the young lady made one stunning move to make sure she shined like a true queen.
When she was 16 years old, Whitney Kropp was sitting in a classroom at Ogemaw Heights High School. Just after the start of the school day, she heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that was shocking to her ears.
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The staticky voice declared that she, Whitney Kropp herself, had been chosen to be that year’s Homecoming Queen! However something that accompanied the exciting announcement gave her reason for pause.
Whitney heard her classmates giggling. Some even whispered quietly to one another. Something seemed off, but she wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the whole scene. Whitney knew she wasn’t exactly your average teen.
This was because the high schooler often dyed her hair different colors and didn’t listen to the same music or watch the same movies as many of the other students in her school. She was different, and she knew it.
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Briefly concerned she was missing something, Whitney pushed her creeping worries to the side and decided to be grateful for the honor. She wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps her fellow students were simply being nice…
So, that night when Whitney returned home, she posted a Facebook status about the news. She stated how excited she was to be nominated, but also confessed that she was “a little nervous.”
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After having a few days to get used to her new reality, Whitney was feeling enthused about her new title, and awaited Homecoming day with frenzied anticipation. Soon, however, she discovered something terrible.
Her worst fears were confirmed: it was all a huge prank. Her classmates had coordinated the awful stunt by all voting for Whitney as a sick joke. However, that wasn’t even the worst part!
Whitney also learned through the grapevine that the nominee for Homecoming King had declined to run…because he was too embarrassed at the possibility of winning alongside her! The young woman was crushed.
Whitney fell into a deep depression. She was so devastated by the news that she even had thoughts of suicide. But soon she realized that, even when it felt like the whole world was against her, she could turn to her loving family for support.
Her sister Alivia decided to post about the harrowing ordeal on social media. Neither she nor Whitney had any idea the kind of impact that this simple gesture would end up having.
Before she knew it, Alivia’s post went viral. Thousands of strangers sent her reassurances and condemned the cruel nature of the high schoolers’ prank. Whitney received more than kind words as a result of the post, though…
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Astoundingly, people reached out in a flood of support, offering Whitney perks such as a limo, dress, and full makeover completely free of charge. Slowly, she began to feel empowered again. But Homecoming was still looming…
Although she still wasn’t sure if it was the right decision, Whitney decided to attend the event regardless of whatever malicious pranks awaited her. How else could she stand up to her tormentors?
For moral support, Whitney brought her dad along with her to the coronation. When the day finally came, they stood in the center of the football field. Whitney stood strong despite her trembling with anxiety. Then, the event took a turn.
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To her great surprise, the entire stadium full of people began to cheer after Whitney’s title was announced. She could hardly believe it. They were cheering for her! Squinting into the stands, she noticed something that made her look twice.
In the crowd she could make out many people wearing shirts dedicated to her. They read “It’s not cool to be cruel,” a sentiment that resonated deeply with Whitney after the trying events she had been through.
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After Homecoming was finished with, Whitney made a heartfelt statement about standing up to bullies: “Stand up for what you believe in and go with your heart and go with your gut,” the inspiring teen said.
Incredibly, after the story went viral, many families began to reach out to Whitney with their own stories of having gone through awful bullying. Knowing that she wasn’t alone meant the world to her. Her moment in the spotlight was far from over.
Amazingly, producers who heard about Whitney’s motivational tale went as far as offering her family a movie deal. They declined the offer. The young girl had other plans for her life…
Always positive, Whitney devoted herself to a career as an anti-bullying advocate, hoping to help those who suffered from teasing or worse. Fortunately, stand-up kids like her are helping to curb bullying in incredible ways.
Even at a high school as exceptional as Fossil Ridge, Max Akin stands out. For one thing, he’s always willing to help out his classmates, giving them the support they need to shine. But his talents aren’t limited to selflessness either.
He led the football team as the starting quarterback, propelling the Panthers throughout a successful 2016 campaign. He had all the tools he needed: he could throw way downfield, scramble away from defenders, and keep his cool during tense moments.
While other guys in his position would be stuck up and conceited, Max understood that playing good football wasn’t the most important thing in life. Instead, he valued contributing to his community and making new friends — especially with those who were different from him.
One of Max’s closest pals at Fossil Ridge was K.L. Norwood, though they were very different people. Although these guys were in the same class, K.L. dealt with challenges each day that Max couldn’t imagine.
Born prematurely, K.L. was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at just a few weeks old. Doctors doubted he would survive the year. But K.L. persevered. Despite his condition, he became known as one of the friendliest students in Fossil Ridge.
Despite his passion for sports, K.L.’s health prevented him from playing at a varsity level. After a bit of asking around, however, he figured out that he could still be part of a team in a very big way.
He became the manager of the football team! He took charge of keeping practices running smoothly and managing the sideline during every game. K.L. quickly established himself as a fixture of the Panthers squad.
Though some starting quarterbacks wouldn’t give the time of day to a manager, K.L. and Max bonded over the years. By the time they were seniors, just about everyone knew these two were best friends.
On and off the field, Max and K.L. were bringing out the best in each other. Both were big about encouraging positivity in their school — a valiant feat for often-petty teenagers. However, Max worried that one upcoming event might tear them apart.
Homecoming weekend was coming up that fall. For most students, the big game, dance, and other festivities were a highlight of the year. Max, on the other hand, saw it as a source of major anxiety.
During the homecoming game, Fossil Ridge would announce that year’s Homecoming King and Queen. Because these honors were voted on by the student body, Max suspected that he was the prime candidate for the honor — just because he played football.
Max certainly wasn’t afraid of being at the center of attention, but he felt the Homecoming crown should go to someone who really deserved it. Max stayed up late making a video he debuted a week before homecoming.
Catching everyone by surprise, Max urged his classmates to vote for K.L.! His unconventional approach had a strong start, as the school announced that K.L. made the finals. But Max was a finalist as well!
Early in the homecoming game, the Panthers pulled out to a comfortable lead. The only thing that was on Max’s mind was halftime when the crown would go to the King and Queen. When the clock rolled down, he joined the other “court” members on the field.
With all the finalists lined up, Fossil Ridge announced the winners. Max’s heart dropped when the loudspeaker announced he won Homecoming King. He begrudgingly accepted the crown and took some photos, and then a bright idea popped into his head.
Max walked over to K.L., knelt down like a medieval servant, and bestowed the crown to his friend. A hush fell over the stadium before the packed Fossil Ridge went wild. But why did Max believe so strongly that K.L. should be King?
Well, he simply thought his friend didn’t get enough credit for bringing people together. “I think [the crown] should’ve gone to the person who positively uplifts the school and everybody around him,” Max said, “and that person is K.L., for sure.”
Following Max’s kind gesture, the rest of the weekend was a blast. Fossil Ridge rocked their homecoming dance, and K.L., in particular, was over the moon to be at the center of it all. They weren’t the only ones who savored the moment either.
Ellen DeGeneres caught wind of the incredible friendship, and she invited Max and K.L. to appear on her show. Not only did these pals get a big moment in the spotlight, but Ellen also gave each of them $10,000 for college!
The Fossil Ridge seniors all went their separate ways later that year, but Max and K.L. gave them a moment to cherish forever. They learned that popularity can come and go, but real friendship is capable of bringing everyone together.
Needless to say, being a teenager is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. So standing out in high school isn’t always ideal. For Kaitlyn Berthiaume, however, standing out was pretty much her game.
See, entering her senior year at Messalonskee High School, the 17-year-old had so much to look forward to. Kaitlyn was very close to her classmates and very well-liked at her small, rural school in Oakland, Maine.
It was almost impossible not to like Kaitlyn. She was hard-working and extremely passionate, especially when it came to her love of cheerleading. Going into her final year of high school, she expected this to be the best season for the squad.
The only problem was there was no squad. Before summer was even over, it became apparent that Kaitlyn was the only girl signed up to cheer that year. She could hardly believe it. All those bright stadium lights had just gone out on her.
While some girls might cheer just for the social aspect, Kaitlyn was truly passionate about the sport. As she swallowed the initial disappointment of the squad-less squad, she now had to face a big decision— to cheer or not to cheer?
As it turns out, this wasn’t a tough decision at all for Kaitlyn. Squad or no squad, she was not going to miss out on her senior year of cheer. If standing alone in front of the entire school was what she needed to do, then that was exactly what she would do!
Funny enough, Messalonskee High School actually retained two cheer coaches, Annie Dobos, and Maila Couture. This meant that not only was Kaitlyn acting as an entire cheerleading squad, but she was also outnumbered by her coaches!
Still, this didn’t deter anyone from supporting Kaitlyn’s solo squad. Coach Dobos and coach Couture were all in for training Kaitlyn for the season. In fact, because there was only one girl to coach, Kaitlyn got a lot of attention, which she matched by taking her training very seriously.
As the first football game approached, Kaitlyn’s confidence began to waver. In theory, continuing the cheer squad was allowing her to do what she loved; but in practice, it still meant standing totally alone in front of a giant crowd.
Not one to back down, Kaitlyn had to trust that her spirit would carry her. The night of the first game, the solitary cheerleader walked out on the turf in front of coaches, teachers, and peers. Little did she know, she wasn’t really the only cheerleader out there that night.
Word had spread around town about the girl who was taking on a season of cheer all by herself. Students and parents alike were in awe of Kaitlyn’s feat and wanted to show their support for her bravery. And how do you show support for a cheerleader?
Cheer! That’s right, not only were the students of Messalonskee High School familiar with all the cheers, many of the parents were, too. As Kaitlyn kicked off the game with some school spirit, the stadium erupted in enthusiastic echoes.
It seems fitting that the school mascot was an eagle, a symbol of courage, strength, and power. This was exactly what Kaitlyn now represented, not only to Messalonskee, but to the entire community. Talk about a leader!
Many parents commended Kaitlyn’s confidence, telling local news she was truly an inspiration. But no one was a bigger cheerleader for Kaitlyn than her mom, Kim. When Kim first found out Kaitlyn was going to be Cheering alone her senior year, she said, “my heart just sank.”
Kim knew how much her daughter loved to cheer and the thought of her standing up in front of a crowd alone, understandably, conjured up motherly concerns. Kaityln’s confidence and positive attitude were contagious, and Kim couldn’t stand to see her daughter lose this part of herself to discouragement.
But as Kaitlyn nervously stood up on game night, what really stood out was her unassailable resilience. Kim couldn’t have been more proud of her daughter. Both of her parents were completely in awe of their little cheerleader.
While Kaitlyn’s cheering obviously caught the attention of locals, many news outlets were also impressed by her story and flocked to know more about the solo cheerer. What they found out, though, wasn’t much of a surprise…
Everyone loved Kaitlyn! Her dad might have said it best when he told Inside Edition, “It’s very, very emotional and very, very inspiring.” If a 17-year-old can stand alone for what she loves, then we all can. That is something everyone can cheer for.