A New York teen who became paralyzed after being shot by a stray bullet outside her family’s apartment has inspired the nation with a moving speech she delivered at her middle school graduation.
On Monday, Tayloni Mazyck, 14, graduated with honors from New Design Middle School in Manhattan and was invited to be the featured speaker at her graduation. Her speech has gained national attention thanks to its inspiring message.
“Believe that you can succeed, and you will,” she said in the speech shared by Pix 11. “Understand that having problems is not an excuse to give up – just an opportunity to fight harder and win.”
“I won today,” she continued. “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 was just 11 years old when she was struck in the neck by a stray bullet from a gang shooting while waiting for her aunt outside her family’s apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The bullet pierced her neck and traveled down her spine, ultimately lodging in her back and leaving her paralyzed, reports NBC New York.
At the time of the shooting, Tayloni was a fifth grader who loved dancing and running tack. The gunshot took that all away, and in its aftermath the young girl suffered from depression, anger, and severe panic attacks, according to the New York Times.
“She used to like to stay in the house, she was scared to go out,” Tayloni’s mother, Priscilla Samuel, told The New York Daily News.
The family moved to Harlem and after a few months of homeschooling, Tayloni decided she was ready to return to school. With middle school behind her, Tayloni will attend High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice in the fall. She says she plans to become a lawyer.
“This student is on her way to success,” school counselor Tara Brown said as she introduced Tayloni at graduation, according to Pix 11. “A bullet from a gun could not stop her, therefore I’m very confident that the sky is the limit.