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Daughter of El Faro crew member to graduate from Lee High School

Desiree Hamm says her dad's memory helps her stay inspired

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The daughter of one of the 33 crew members on board the El Faro when it sank graduated will graduate from Lee High School in Jacksonville Friday afternoon. 

Desiree Hamm said her graduation day will be bittersweet because her biggest cheerleader won't be there to see it.

"We were like real close. So it's like kind of odd ... knowing that the man you grew up close with is not going to be out there watching you graduate," Desiree said.

Frank Hamm III was on El Faro when the Jacksonville-based cargo ship sank near the Bahamas while en route to Puerto Rico on Oct. 1, 2015, during Hurricane Joaquin. All 33 of the El Faro’s crew perished.

Desiree said the months since have been tough since her dad was the one who pushed her. She said not having him around took its toll -- she didn't want to go to class, her grades started to drop and her dream of going to college started to fade. 

"How am I to go to a university at the same time and have all this on my mind? And I'm worried about my family and what not and I was just unsure of what I was going to do," Desiree said. 

Through her pain, Desiree decided not to let what happened to her dad hold her back.

"This is something I have to live with for the rest of my life. So I was to the point where I was just like, 'I need to really step back up my game because this is not what you would want for me,'" Desiree said. 

Now, Desiree said she's using her father's memory to stay inspired and achieve her dreams. The teen got her GPA up to a 3.5 and started to thrive as the vice president of the senior class and a member of the volleyball team.

Desiree said her dad even inspired her to do something she never would have -- run for prom queen.

And she won.

Desiree’s mother, Rochell Hamm, said her daughter has made her so proud.  

"At the end of the day, somebody is going to be saying this young lady with something, you know, has gotten somewhere and that's what it's all about," Hamm said. 

Even though her dad will not in the crowd, Desiree will walk across the stage with him in her heart. 

Desiree was accepted to her dream school, Florida Atlantic University. But without the scholarship money she needs, she will head to Florida State College at Jacksonville to do what she said her dad would have wanted her to do -- never give up.