Two and a half years after Deserae Turner was shot in the head and left for dead by two of her classmates, the Utah high school student was crowned Homecoming Queen. On Friday, Deserae, 17, smiled from ear to ear as her father escorted her to the center of Green Canyon High School's football field, as the community rose to their feet to cheer.
Before accepting the crown, Deserae tells Yahoo Lifestyle, she wasn't even aware that she had been nominated to Homecoming Court, let alone would be voted Queen. Wanting to keep the announcement of her coronation a secret until it was revealed at the school's homecoming assembly, Deserae and her mother, April Turner, shared on Facebook that she was going to the homecoming dance. Immediately, the community rallied to ensure she had the perfect look — friends volunteered to help with her hair, nails, and makeup, and she received multiple offers of those who wished to donate a dress.
In her tiara, sash, and beautiful gray tulle dress, she looked every part of a Queen. "I was happy for days," she tells Yahoo. "It still makes me ecstatic."
On Sept. 23, it was announced at a morning assembly that Deserae would be the Queen. After she walked the stage with her service dog, Snoopy, the Homecoming King presented her with flowers and gave Snoopy a lei made out of dog treats.
"I felt honored and blessed to be homecoming queen," Deserae said. "I think my peers were just as excited as I was."
On Friday, she received the community's recognition again as she walked across the football field at the homecoming game during halftime — a miracle in and of itself.
In February 2017, two classmates lured Deserae to a canal before shooting her in the head and leaving her near-dead in a ditch. She was found eight hours later after her parents reported her missing. The culprits, Colter Peterson and Jayzon Decker, have been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, according to KUTV News.
The bullet hit the right side of Deserae's brain and, as a result, the left side of her body became paralyzed, FOX13 reported. In the years that followed the senseless crime, Deserae had to relearn "everything," including how to walk and how to use her left hand. She's had ten brain surgeries, with two more scheduled before the end of the year, and continues physical therapy.
For her mother, seeing her daughter be crowned Homecoming Queen resulted in a lot of "happy tears."
"It is special to see Des so happy and doing something that normal teenagers do," April told Yahoo. "Her life is so different than the typical teenager, it’s wonderful for her to just suspend her doctor appointments and therapies to be a 'normal' teen for a moment. I’m sure this will always be a treasured memory as she looks back on Homecoming week. Something that will bring a smile to her face."
Deserae said that she is so thankful to the community and her classmates for making this moment possible.
"I would like to tell my community and school, thank you," Deserae said. "I truly felt like a queen. I wish every girl could experience such a magical, amazing event. Really, I wish every high school student can feel as loved as I did."
Deserae is set to graduate in the spring and plans to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After that, she hopes to work with animals and continue volunteering.
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