Grace Under Pressure: The Little Kropp That Could

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

The trauma many kids face in high school from cruel teenage high-jinx is an underrated psychological pain. Self-described “outcast” Whitney Kropp is a survivor, though. Kropp, who attends Ogemaw Heights High School, thought she had finally gained some social acceptance when she was unexpectedly elected  as sophomore representative to the homecoming court. Sadly, her classmates in rural Michigan had played a cruel joke on her as they made it clear they sought only to  embarrass the 16-year-old with the sham honor. Whitney spent the night in tears and even seriously considered suicide.”I’m like, ‘Wow, I feel like trash,'” Kropp said. “I feel like I’m a little thing that no one really cares about.”

Seeing her pain, Kropp’s family and her handful of friends joined together to support the teen. It was about this time that Whitney decided to make the best of her situation by embracing the job. The town embraced the job, too. Hearing about the prank, a local business stepped up to provide shoes and a gown. A salon in town donated the hair styling. A Facebook page written by her sister, Alivia, to tell the story  garnered 96,000 “likes,”  as well as  a torrent of emails in support.

And with these simple expressions of love and empathy, Whitney Kropp began to find herself.

“It is absolutely awesome to see her stand up,” a beaming Bernice Kropp, mother of Whitney,  said. “And it’s so cool to see e-mails … we’re getting from parents and other students from all over the place telling her stories and how it helped them and it touched them. My daughter is out there as an inspiration to a lot of people, and it’s a really cool thing.”

Whitney’s new-found celebrity came as even a surprise for her. “I thought before, ‘Oh, no one cares about me,”’ she said. “I thought not even my own brother and sister care. But they’re proving me they do care. The world is proving they do, well not really care about me, but they care about the situation. So I’m happy. I’m really honored.”

Last night, Whitney stood before the packed crowd at the high school football game, many dressed in Whitney’s favorite color — orange — to honor her. When asked about what advice she would give to other kids subjected to this kind of bullying embarrassment, Whitney said simply, “I would tell them to be brave.”

Grace under pressure?  Hemingway would be proud.

Source:  CNN and Michigan Live

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

32 thoughts on “Grace Under Pressure: The Little Kropp That Could”

  1. Victim hood has environmental factors. There is a certain security to being helpless if one is surrounded by those of similar ilk.
    The girl in the story had some healthy support, and the internal fortitude to accept it and stand for herself. I am amazed at the potential and capabilities of any human that can rise above the swamp of human debasing.
    Mespo, thank you for the inspiring story.

    Ms. Kropp by her example may lift up one or myriads of youth to rise their self. Not bad for high school.

  2. So, given the sentimental and general anti-bullying stance by the legally attached on this blog… do you reconcile such socially acceptable, anti-bullying stances on the blogosphere, vs the obviously self-supporting, bully enriching, anti-social atmosphere of the court room?

  3. High school was the worse years of my life. I grew up outside a farm town of less than 2,000 folks. I started first grade with half of the HS graduates

    The town and school were extremely parochial and racist, conservative in politics and fundamentalist in religion. People had this really high-regard for themselves — the rugged American individual — and for other folks who were just like them, formed with the same cookie cutter.

    I never bought into it. I tried, I really did, but it was debasing. I just couldn’t get over the racist thing. Or the sexist thing (My HS football coach told me I in front of the whole history class I would make someone a good wife)

    [Damn it — I can’t believe I had to leave the keyboard and cool off after typing that last sentence]

    Cost constraints kept me there while I got a diploma from the local college, but then I lit out. I settled in my present hometown nearly 30 years ago.

    I don’t go back It’s been decades since I’ve spoken to a fellow HS schoolmate.

    When asked, I always say I’m from my present hometown, not the first. If pressed, I just say it took me awhile to get here. Don’t know that I’ve yet made it.

  4. Bron,

    I am sure it was to highly embarrass the young lady….. Financial issues aside….

  5. Thanks so much for this post! A great feel good story to support anyone that needs to stand up to bullies!

  6. Great story indeed! I share the kind of experiences Mike Spindell writes about in his comment but perhaps to a lesser extent because one of my three brothers whose nickname was ‘the boxer’ would beat up those which tried to bully me. That may not have been the ‘right’ thing to do but it was nevertheless effective. The experiences turned me into an activist against bullies and of course I learned along the way there are better strategies to counter bullies than to have somebody beat them up. As a long-time teacher I have always paid extra attention to the bullies and have been lucky to belong to school staff which take it seriously. I also agree with the observations Nick Spinelli writes about: girls can be some of the nastiest human beings around.
    Too bad that with all the efforts against bullying, some of our leaders and their media outlets don’t stand with us. My favorite examples are Donald Trump with his latest ‘get even’ comment at Liberty University and the Fair and Balanced Fox News punditry. I once watched part of the program “The Five” and that was enough for me: four of these ‘five’ are in arguments about certain issues with only one who most often doesn’t agree with their stance. Talk about promoting a culture of mob mentality and using the power of it to beat up on a minority. I realize there if of course some jest in it all with the single minority in the group getting paid handsomely for his role, but it’s still such a sad example of teaching how to bully. I also see it on other news channels but to a lesser extent.

  7. By the way, I do not think it is at all necessary to feel sympathy for the Zimmermans OR George. They find themselves in a terrible situation? Oh. Jeez. Oh…well that’s OK. Let them pray about it.

  8. Malisha, Good story. I’ve found there is little bullying when there are righteous peer leaders in a classroom, team, business, etc. You need righteous, teachers, coaches, etc., but as we all know peers are most important to kids, particularly middle school kids.

  9. David Blauw, I have seen so much cruelty and true victims, not the faux ones seeking victimhood. Those who still flourish in spite of the horrors they experience are the ones who reject victimhood and refuse to let the the tragedy define them. Those who seek victimhood is something I don’t understand nor do I care to, I simply ignore them. I surmise that’s what’s probably best for them.

  10. Strange little fact, and I never thought of it until now. All my life I have been involved in classrooms. First, I went to public school and was IN classrooms but also, my mother was a teacher and my “after school” job was tutoring kids in HER classroom when they needed extra help reading (i.e., every day, somebody or other). I went to a vicious high school. I have seen all kinds of bullying. Then I did various things and was not involved with classrooms for many years. THEN I was asked to participate in grade schools again because friends of mine were Montessori teachers and needed someone to bring in (on a volunteer basis, because of lack of funding for the “extras”) a drama component, and I wrote, produced and directed plays and skits for their classrooms in three different schools, two of them private, one public inner city school. Lots of classroom contact again. Guess what: THERE WAS NO BULLYING IN THE MONTESSORI CLASSROOMS! It just now struck me. There were even some circumstances that, in a typical classroom, would have brought forth the worst form of bullying, yet I saw NONE of it. When I did the casting for a middle-school production of a full-length three-act play, ALL the kids were present and auditions were done ON THE SPOT and the kids all supported each other, even if they were in competition for the same role! At one point, two girls were in competition for the only role in the play that involved beautiful costumes (a slave-owner in 1840), and the part would go to the one who had the better “upset scream.” The two girls screamed a few times and then the general consensus was that the one named Michelle had a better scream so she won, and the other AND the rest of the students hugged her and giggled.

    I wonder if there isn’t something about the hierarchical classroom that promotes bullying. Haven’t given it much thought, but will now.

  11. Life is cruel, how living growing human beings react to this is a choice. In youth. The environment of birth, family unit, and peers are major influences on young ones as they learn to deal with “The Great Unfairness” of life. Often the practices developed to deal with teenage angst if successful, or sufficient, carry over to a life commitment to those practices in ones adulthood.
    …..Now I ponder. Successful youthful bullies can grow and become successful bully business people, or politicians. Being a wall flower ditto, or a devout follower of authority, etc. etc.
    The wide eyed innocence, curiosity, openness of heart to experience, as youth has, shatters on the rocks of cruel unyielding realities of life.

    Cruelties of nature occur everyday, fortunately not everyday for each individual. But when a cruelty occurs, and the injured party responds with a cruelty from within their own personal nature, …then the cruelty continues.
    An eye for an eye makes the world blind. (Ghandi).

    Embracing the tool of cruelty spreads cruelty.

    Natures cruelty is fickle and “innocent” it happens. Human cruelty is created and directed by individual cruel humans. Sadly cruelty in various forms and degrees is used to bring success at times to individuals. In a society where success is sacred, the use of cruelty is implicitly approved too often.

  12. I’ve seen a lot in my life. However, working lunch room duty in a middle school would make my heart break. Boy bullying is physically dangerous. However, seeing girl bullying by shunning other girls and ridiculing them would make me want to just hug the victims. I would sit w/ them and just eat a snack. It didn’t ease their pain but was @ least a distraction. The insecurities of kids is awful, but c’est la vie.

  13. Bron,

    People are cruel, especially high school…… This area of Michigan you have lots of haves and have nots…… More have nots than other areas of the state… They were full aware that the family could not afford such luxuries….. That’s why the towns in the surrounding areas stepped up to help…..

  14. This happened a few years ago to a girl in one of my grandkid’s class.

    She took it in stride and told all her friends (paraphasing), “I know the fools think they’ve gotten me but I plan to list this on my college app as an indication of leadership so please, no pity needed or wanted.”

    She was accepted at an Ivy League on a full ride … the only girl in the class who was. She credits her grades, her essay, and her proven leadership abilities.

    I believe she’s a 1st year law student now.

  15. Mark,

    Thank you for this lovely story. As we age most of us learn to sublimate our memories of childhood, editing out the terrors of growing up that for most of us, even in the best of situations, arise because we are simply trying to understand the confusing issues of life. Add that to the natural human needs of forming a “pecking order” and the pressure can seem unbearable..I was physically and verbally bullied from First Grade until my Junior Year in high school. I fought back in kind, but the sense of being alienated from my peers was difficult to live with. In my Junior Year, I came into my own and while I
    still was not in the “in crowd”, those of like mind came together as sort of the “hip-ironic-beat” crowd and the pressures eased.

    Nevertheless, the scars of those years remain with me in memories because I promised myself I’d never forget what it felt like. My lifelong passion for the underdog stems directly from those experiences. I loathe “bullies” of any kind and to the best of my ability I’ve always tried to counter their sadism. It is rewarding that in America many are finally realizing that childhood bullying is quite destructive and there is a movement against it that is growing.

    As an example of the sublimation of which I speak here are some interesting lines from the iconic 1907 song “School Days, School Days.”

    “School days, school days
    Dear old golden rule days
    Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
    Taught to the tune of the hickory stick”

    This is the ominous chorus stuck in the middle of a bunch of syrupy sentimental lyrics, the terror of being beaten, still remembered but washed away by a shower of gooey sentimentality.

  16. Mark, Thanks for making my Saturday morning. Taking a negative, and turning it into a positive, is precious. And, metioning my favorite author was a personal pleasure for me.

  17. Nobody likes bullies (except bullies), whether those bullies be nation states, groups, or individuals.

    Cool story about handling bullies Mark.

  18. Mark,

    Great story….. As you pointed out Hemingway…. Indeed he would have been proud…. It does not surprise me that the towns stepped up to take care of this embarrassing situation… They are for the most part honorable folks…

    This area of Michigan is rural….. Don’t know if meth is still the number 1 industry…… But it is a very beautiful place….. Where you have to stop for wild turkeys crossing the road…. It may be 40 to 50 at a time…

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