Saying a teenager is independent isn't a surprising headline.
But when you say 16-year old Cassidy Hooper is independent, we think it's something noteworthy.
Cassidy is one of the few kids in America born with no eyes and no nose.
We first met Cassidy when she was 11. Five years later, we're getting a major update on her life, her medical procedures to surgically build a nose and, in a fantastic moment, Cassidy shares with us what she calls the secrets to living a joyful life.
For this story, Anchor Molly Grantham and Photojournalist Brian Stephenson have been following Cassidy for months. She invited them to her school for the day in Raleigh.
Cassidy attends The Governor Morehead School, which works closely with students who or blind or deaf.
Cassidy maneuvers from Spanish II class to hopping on a bus and singing to a homeless shelter, with ease. She keeps her days packed. And she always – as in ALWAYS – has a smile.
"I get better grades here than in public school," she said. "There are less students. It's better for me to be here than in a class with 30 kids."
Cassidy has been in the process of getting a nose. It is a multi-year, multi-surgery procedure full of skin grafts and facial reconstruction. She said she near the end of the process.
"By the end of the school year I should have a nose," she said. "There are only 4 surgeries left, and they'll all be in a 2-3 week period," she paused, "…Soon I'll have a real nose, like everyone else's."
It's an unbelievable thing to witness Cassidy smile… to laugh… to overcome everyday obstacles.
How does she do it? Through a lesson she says she taught herself.
"If somebody says something, I try not to let it bother me," she says. "I just basically deal with everything. I'm just happy all the time. I don't let other people get to me – I just try to live my own independent life."