Friends who survived 2019 shooting graduate together

NOW: Friends who survived 2019 shooting graduate together

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- December 1, 2019 is a day that changed Raven Derrickson and Deja Johnson's lives forever.

“It was one of those positions where you don’t want to be in,” IUSB Alumn Deja Johnson said.

Raven and Deja were just about to get out their car after a night out on that Saturday, when shots were fired by an unknown person, going through the back passenger side window and hitting them both.

“You know being in that situation with your best friend, not knowing if she was going to make it. The thing that was going through my mind was how am I going to explain this to her family, how am I going to explain this to my family,” Johnson said.

Thankfully and miraculously though, both of them survived the incident.

“It hit Deja and then it hit myself in my ear and in my face, I have a bit of a scar. After that I was able to drive both of us to McDonalds down the street where law enforcement was able to meet us and we got transported to the hospital and checked out,” IUSB Alumn Raven Derrickson said.

All of this, though, didn’t stop them from returning to school and pursuing their dreams.

“I think the situation really just propelled me into really dive into my education because I’m thinking okay this is the hand I’ve been dealt, so what can I do about it,” Derrickson said.

“I went to school right after. The 24 hours and some change later, I went right back to school and I felt like I had to do it not just for me but for my best friend,” Johnson said.

Along with a long road to recovery and getting back into the swing of things in school, Indiana had its first positive COVID-19 case several weeks after the fact, causing them both to switch to virtual learning. Their eyes though, were still on the prize.

“We could’ve dropped out of school. We could’ve said forget it, we’re done. We could’ve let our trauma define us but we didn’t and you know my therapist, she said you let your pain be your passion with a purpose and that is what I’m doing,” Johnson said.

After countless days spent both inside and behind the screen in class and hundreds of hours of hard work and studying, the two best friends defied the odds and graduated together with their Masters in Social Work on Wednesday.

“I feel amazing! It’s been a long time coming, for years I didn’t think I would come back and get my graduate degree or my master but here I am,” Derrickson said.

“It's been a long journey for me definitely so I’m really excited to be standing next to my best friend, we graduated high school together, and now we are graduating college together. So, it’s definitely a full circle moment,” Johnson said.

Both grads say they owe all of their success and perseverance to family, friends and therapists who rooted them on throughout it all.

Deja has accepted a job at Beacon Health as a Community Health Worker, and plans to help others through sharing her own experiences.

Raven’s goal is to work in a hospital or as a therapist, all while being a voice against gun violence.

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