Adolescent years can be difficult, especially with unsupportive peers. That’s part of what makes becoming Homecoming King or Queen so appealing. It offers reassurance amidst some of the most confusing years in life.
When 16-year-old Whitney Kropp was nominated Homecoming Queen, it seemed like a shove in the right direction. Someone who doesn’t fit into the popular group being voted as Homecoming Queen could be a huge step in the right direction for adolescents, or a giant step backwards.
Something Seemed Fishy
As in most high schools, the nominations were announced over a load speaker during class. The first warning sign was how the other students in her class responded to her name being called.
While hearing her name was a shock to Whitney, it seemed more like a joke to the other kids. Some of them were giggling. Nevertheless, Whitney chose to take the announcement as a blessing in disguise rather than as the curse she’d discover it was.
She Still Announced The News
Like most teens would be, Whitney was both excited and nervous at the good news. On one hand, her instincts told her that something was up and that this shouldn’t have happened to her.
One the other hand, it was a great honor and could just be kind people recognizing a kind girl. She decided to believe in her classmates and told her family. She also made short Facebook post announcing the good news and admitting to being a “little nervous.”
Reality Settled In
Whitney didn’t just think that something strange was going on with the nomination due to the fact that not a lot of people knew her. She also was aware of the fact that she stood out amongst her peers.
She loved to change her hair color, and didn’t share the same interests in pop culture as some of her classmates. While being different can be a good thing, many teenagers to not see it this way. Everything came together when she discovered the whole thing was a prank.
Everyone Was In On It
Since rumors tend to spread quickly and carelessly in high school, Whitney soon discovered that most of her classmates were in on it and had voted for her to support the prank.
Even worse, she heard that a nominee for Homecoming King had declined to run. Supposedly, he didn’t want to risk being chosen alongside Whitney. The feeling of rejection poured into Whitney as she discovered this news. It left her feeling utterly depressed and alone.
She Felt Worthless
Whitney’s depression climbed to the point that she didn’t know if she could go on. She told WNEM, “I had actually reached a point where I had though about suicide for how bad this case was in. I thought I wasn’t worthy at Ogemaw Heights at all.”
Since many teenagers are still building their sense of self, peer validation is extremely important. Without it, a good person can suddenly feel worthless. Fortunately, Whitney had a loving family by her side.
Her Family Convinced Her To Go
The key to not letting her bullies get the best of her was opening up to her family. The joke appauled those who care about her most, but they needed to know. It took some of the pressure off of Whitney and gave her a team of her own.
Her family convinced Whitney to go to Homecoming anyways. They convinced her that standing tall as she was crowned was the only way to show her enemies how strong she is.
Then Her Team Grew Bigger
Whitney’s sister Alivia decided to turn to social media for additional support. She relayed the horrible prank to her followers on Facebook and started a group on behalf of her sister.
The terrible news raced across the internet, and thousands of people were moved that this innocent teenager was going through such cruel bullying. Her story quickly became a story of inspiration, rather than defeat. All of a sudden, Whitney was a hero to kids being bullied everywhere.
She Was Offered A Heaping Of Gifts
In an attempt to encourage Whitney, businesses reached out offering gifts to make her night special despite the awful prank. She received a gorgeous outfit to wear to Homecoming.
She was also given complimentary limo transportation and a free makeover by hairdresser Shannon Champagne. Shannon opened up publically about why she felt compelled to help Whitney. She said that she could sympathize with the desire to be chosen and then find out that it was all meant to make fun of Whitney.
She Received Surprise Support
The homecoming coronation was set to happen during halftime at the Homecoming football game. Dressed in her beautiful dress with freshly trimmed and dyed hair, Whitney nervously faced stands full of bullies.
When she stepped out, she was surprised to find that thousands of people stood up and cheered her on. They even made signs that read words of encouragement and love. After fearing that she was worthless to the world, cheering fans was exactly what Whitney needed.
Her Father Stood By Her Side
Whitney was accompanied by her father on this fateful night. If anyone was going to mess with Whitney, they would have to face up to him first. With her dad by her side and supporters in the stands, Whitney was able to brace the Homecoming coronation.
After the event, Whitney sent a message to anyone being bullied: “The kids that are bullying you, do not let them bring you down. Stand up for what you believe in and go with your heart and go with your gut.”
Her Mother Couldn’t Have Been More Proud
The Daily Mail reported that Whitney’s mother is happy at her daughter’s impact on her fellow peers. She also stated that families have reached out to share their bullying stories, as well.
The family’s have been sure to let Whitney know how much her story means to them and what an important figure she is. Whitney’s mother thinks that it’s wonderful seeing that her daughter has become such an inspirationg to so many people, despite the events that lead up to it.
She Was Offered A Movie Deal
All of the hype attracted tons of people to Whitney’s story. She got so much attention that her family was even asked if they’d be willing to have the ordeal turned into a movie.
Whitney is glad that she brought more attention to the issue of bullying and that her torment turned into someone else’s relief. However, at the end of the day, fame can take a toll on anyone. When all was said and done, the family decided they had had enough publicity.
The Experience May Have Inspired Her Career
While some young adults know from the time their little what they want to do for a living, others discover it through the lifechanging experiences they encounter later on.
Now that she has become known through this story, Whitney has considered becoming an anti-bullying advocate. The prank was turned completely around by both her newfound support, and her possible future career. Despite others trying to bring her down, they only inspired Whitney’s support system to stand up for what’s right.
Whitney Helped Spread Awareness
Some teens would have been mortified at the idea of letting others know what they had gone through, preferring to shut down and pretend it didn’t happen. Whitney’s courage to be upfront and honest with the situation saved her and others who encounter bullying.
The national issue has to be fought with support and love. While Whitney’s fans were in the stands, many of them wore these shirts. It was a simple way to say that they are not okay with the people who tried to pull this prank. Anyone enduring that kind of torment deserves a helping hand.
Max Akin Was An Unlikely Best Friend For K.L.
It was a typical Friday night in Texas but Fossil Ridge High School quarterback Max Akin was having an incredible night under the bright lights. By halftime, the play-caller had already thrown for 200 yards, run for 60, and given his team four touchdowns.
Those are some pretty impressive stats to rack up and the game wasn’t over. Still, Akin hadn’t made the most significant play of his young life yet. That’s because on the sidelines cheering for Max was the team manager K.L.
Max Was Your Typical “Popular Kid”
Akin started his high school football career as a wide receiver at Fossil Ridge. However, his natural arm made him an obvious lock to transition to the quarterback position. By the time his senior year arrived, he was the man leading the team.
Akin was a leader and one of the school’s most popular kids. His infectious personality and great smile made him all the more likable. When homecoming came around, Akin was one of the five boys up to win the crown. And sure enough, there was K.L. Norwood on the sideline cheering for him.
Homecoming Was A Night Fit For A King
This was homecoming night which meant this wasn’t your ordinary game for Fossil Ridge. Any high school kid will tell you that homecoming is one of the biggest nights of the year. The lights were all on Akin, the star quarterback.
As he was ready to lead his team to victory and become the king of the night, his best friend K.L. watched patiently on the sidelines. K.L. was the football team’s manager and didn’t know what was about to happen next…
K.L. Norwood Couldn’t Play Football, So He Was Team Manager
K.L. (Kemper Louis) Norwood wasn’t even supposed to make it to high school. His days were predicted to be over right after his complicated birth. Born three months prematurely, he only weighed one pound and 13 ounces. Due to the fact that he barely survived his entry into the world, the doctors gave his parents some harsh news.
The revealed that K.L. would most likely lose his ability to walk, talk, see, and hear. Doctors even gave K.L.’s parents the option to take him off of life support. They chose to give him the chance to live a full life — a chance that Norwood hasn’t taken for granted.
Cerebral Palsy Can’t Stop K.L.
After the problems caused by K.L.’s premature birth, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. That is a condition that affects one’s physical development. Cerebral palsy, or CP, often creates a lack of basic coordination, loss of fluidity in your walk, and a host of other developmental challenges like speech impediments.
For K.L., this diagnosis meant no sports with the rest of his classmates and friends. But CP couldn’t keep Norwood off the football field as you will soon see…
K.L. In His Senior Year
Norwood was really influential at his high school. He was admired, loved, and respected by his peers. “You can tell everyone just loves him,” Staci Murto, a teacher at Fossil Ridge, told the Dallas Morning News.
Akin told the news outlet that “everybody in the school loves K.L. You see him walking down the hallway and he’s shaking at least 12 hands at a time.” Even though Norwood couldn’t play sports, he had a huge desire to contribute.
More Than A Manager
The sport K.L. loves the most is football. It only makes sense that it’s the game he could help out most in. When his senior year rolled around, he decided to become one of Fossil Ridge’s student equipment managers, which was a great decision.
Every day before class, and before the football team made their entrance to the field, K.L was there filling up water bottles, prepping the uniforms, and making sure everything was right for the players. For his undying contributions, K.L. was nominated for homecoming king.
Other than the senior prom or the state championship game, homecoming night is right up there as one of the most important events of the year at Fossil Ridge. There are plenty of festivities, ceremonies, and of course, the football game.
Ordinarily, there are five students elected to the royal court, the “shortlist” for homecoming king. Each nominated student makes a video explaining why they should win. Akin had a lot he could have talked about in his video, but he did something unexpected.
Showing Support For K.L.
Akin did the humble thing and made a video that encouraged his classmates to vote for the student who “positively uplifts this school the most.” If it were up to Akin, he would want everyone to choose K.L. “K.L. is honestly the most positive guy I’ve ever met in my life,” Max said.
Akin just couldn’t let up on talking up his dear friend K.L. He went and said that K.L. will always laugh at your jokes and make you feel way funnier than you really were.
When halftime of the homecoming game came around, there was not a single person who was shocked when Akin won the homecoming king crown. However, K.L. was eager to win and felt a bit downhearted, but continued to cheer on his friend.
“It was really exciting. I knew he was going to win from the get-go, so I clapped for him,” K.L. said. After Akin won, he took some pictures with the queen, but he still felt like something was off…
The Real Handoff
Without a heads up or any type of fanfare, after he was done taking pictures with the queen, Akin went over to K.L. He motioned for K.L. to come over to where he was and once he did, he suddenly dropped to one knee.
That’s when Akin handed the crown to K.L. and gave him the honor he felt he should have received the whole time. Once the crowd realized what was going on, they erupted into cheers. It was the best play of the night.
The King Of The Night
Chants of “K.L!” echoed through Texas once the school’s most beloved pupil received the honor of homecoming king from Akin. This was truly an honor of a lifetime for K.L. His sadness immediately turned into pure bliss. Even the queen couldn’t keep her joy to herself.
“I thought it was the best hearing them chant K.L.’s name right after halftime,” Akin told a local television station. “And I know he liked that too. Everybody was going wild for him. Everybody loves K.L. at this school.
Letting It Sink In
When everyone in the crowd chanted K.L.’s name, all he could do was stand there and smile as he soaked up one incredible moment. “It was really nice of him to do that, and I’m actually glad he did but yes, it did surprise me,” K.L. said. “It made me really, really happy.”
After Akin came up from taking the knee without the crown on his head, he told K.L. he loved him as he embraced the new king. That was the biggest trick play of his career as a quarterback.
A Message From Max
Social media did its job and ended up having this heartfelt story picked up by the local media. “If you spread a little bit of love and compassion around, that’s all we really need and something lacking in today’s world- a little bit of positivity every once in a while,” Max said.
After the local news picked it up, the story made its way to the national level. It became so big that eventually Ellen Degeneres picked up the phone and called the boys…
The Ellen Show
One of the most popular daytime talk shows on TV has to be The Ellen Degeneres Show. Ellen is purely magical as she amuses the audience and all of her special guests. There is never any telling what she is going to ask or say next.
Some of her fans’ favorite segments are the ones that include everyday people doing extraordinary things. This is why K.L. and Akin made for the perfect guests to appear on this show.
From Texas To Cali
When ordinary citizens are the guest stars on Ellen’s show, she usually gifts them with some type of award. That can include cars, money, or charitable donations. Once the producers heard about K.L. and Akin’s touching story, it was only right they pay the gesture forward.
Three weeks after that fateful homecoming night, Ellen brought in the two high school kids to her set. She wanted to celebrate the kind act that was so inspiring to many.
Spreading The Love
Before the two students arrived on stage, Ellen told the audience the backstory to help them better understand. Ellen was blown away by the great gesture Akin did for his friend with CP, but Akin insisted the CP had little to do with his decision.
“I don’t see K.L. as a disabled person, I see him as a great human being. As a homecoming king, you should be able to make people happy and give good vibes all around the room, and K.L. never fails to do that,” Akin said.
The Golden Rule
Akin had achieved the platform to relay a more important message to the masses, and he did not misuse his chance to deliver to a national audience. In an honorable fashion, Akin said, “I think me and K.L. really want to get across the fact that, as corny as it may sound, you’ve got to treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”
He then said that if you ever had the chance to make somebody’s day, then you should not hesitate to take it. After he said this, the crowd erupted just like they did on the homecoming night.
Ellen Pays It Forward
As the show progressed and approached the end, Akin and K.L. were about to receive the ultimate gift. After they announced they would attend a college that fall, Ellen gave them each checks for $10,000 that they could use towards their education!
In true Ellen fashion, a production manager ran onto the stage with the huge checks in hand, prepared with Akin and K.L.’s names on them. “We need more people like you in the world,” Ellen told the duo.
Being Positive Is A Great Thing
“It was a whole bunch of great guys,” Akin said about the other candidates, “but I knew exactly who deserved the crown. As soon as I heard the nominees, I knew K.L. was the one who should get it.”
Although K.L. didn’t officially win, his positive spirit and gracious attitude led to him winning anyway. This story is just another example of how being a genuinely good person can be a great thing in this world.