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Utah girl who was shot in the head graduates 3 years after she was left to die in a canal

Deserae Turner visits with a well-wisher during a drive-by graduation celebration in her front yard in Amalga, Cache County, on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Turner, who was shot in the head by two classmates in February 2017, graduated from Green Canyon High School Wednesday. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Turner was not able to receive her diploma in person. 
Ray Boone, Deseret News

AMALGA, Cache County — Not even a pandemic could stop Deserae Turner from receiving her diploma.

The high school senior graduated from Green Canyon High School Wednesday — three years after being shot by classmates and left to die in a canal.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Turner was not able to receive her diploma in person. Instead her family hosted a drive-by celebration in her front yard.

“It has been amazing seeing everyone come and support me,” she said.

Dozens of friends, family and even complete strangers drove by her home to congratulate her on an achievement that almost didn’t happen.

“There were times I wanted to give up, but I just kept pushing,” Turner said. “And now I’m here.”

In February 2017, Deserae was shot by two classmates who lured her into a canal. Since then she’s had 17 procedures, lost vision in her left eye and continues to go through physical therapy. Even though her journey has not been an easy one, her mother said she never let it get in the way of her schoolwork.

“I wanted her to forget school and just concentrate on healing, but she wanted to be in school and she wanted to graduate,” April Turner said. “She wanted the regular diploma, and she wanted to do it on time and with her class.”

Among the crowd who came to celebrate her graduation was close family friend Sue Hintze, who found Deserae Turner the day she was shot.

“We went out looking and just happened upon her,” Hintze said. “It was a true miracle.”

Deserae Turner said she plans to take a year off to focus on physically healing. She said she is looking to serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the near future.