NEW YORK --Three years ago, a young girl was caught in the cross fire of gang violence near her apartment in Brooklyn.
The shooting left her paralyzed. But now, Tayloni Mazyck is serving as an inspiration.
She's graduating with honors from New Design Middle School and has her sights set on her bright future.
"I was shot in the neck and face by a stray bullet at the age of 11 years old," Tayloni said.
Getting shot in the neck and face is a pretty tough subject for an 8th-grader.
"The last few years, I've been through a bunch of challenges, going back to school and being out of school," Tayloni said.
The 2013 shooting permanently put Tayloni in a wheelchair. Even talking about the incident was impossible for her just a year ago.
She planned to read a letter at the sentencing hearing for the convicted gunman Kane Cooper. But she was so rattled - her brother, Daiquan Mazyck, had to do it for her.
"Because of your actions, I have known pain and endured more pain in my short life than most," Daiquan said.
It's a story she is using to inspire her classmates at New Design Middle School in Hamilton Heights.
Monday afternoon, the 14-year-old was the student speaker for commencement and graduating as a merit honor roll student. She said she spent about two days to prepare her three-page speech.
"Me and her prepared it together. She told me what she wanted to say and I feel that she came a long way because she was able to write about what happened to her without frowning and crying," said Priscilla Samuel, Tayloni's mother.
Next year, she's going to the High School for Law Advocacy and Community Justice.
She said her experience has inspired her to pursue a career in law. It's a goal Tayloni said she may have never dreamed of, without the support of her mom and middle school teachers.
"I won today. Today I am a winner. My mishap does not define me. It does not limit me, it just helps the fighter in me stay alive," Tayloni said.