BY KATIE FREIBURGER
There is no doubt that great books move us, affect our inner core, and stimulate new ideas. North Shore teen Avery McCall illustrates this perfectly as she prepares for her collegiate career at Stanford after spending most of the last 6 years on the world’s stage.
I first met Avery when we asked her to speak to our 5th grade parents at a school gathering. She was so captivating that I have wanted to write her story ever since. I finally had the opportunity to sit down with her on a dreary February day and was instantly enamored by her uncommon élan. A human rights activist, Ford Model, radio show co-host, and student, eighteen-year old Avery’s journey is unique, highlighting the power of the written word.
Avery is the middle child of Ashley and Matthew McCall. The McCalls made a decision early on to raise their children out of the city and in the peace and quiet of the North Shore. From a very young age, her parents knew Avery was one of a kind, describing her as a “wise soul with an innate curiosity for the world.” Ashley McCall fostered her daughter’s aptitude through exposure to lectures on everything from foreign relations to art, while her Dad instilled in her the belief that women can do anything.
By age twelve, Avery was an ardent reader. Her mother had just finished reading the book Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn when she asked if she, too, could read it. Mrs. McCall agreed. The book argues that the oppression of women worldwide is the paramount moral challenge of the present era.
“The book changed my perspective. I realized how lucky I was; lucky to be born here and not in a third world nation. Driven by this feeling, I knew I had to do something to help these young women who were not as fortunate. I could not live with myself and just sit by . . . I had to make some sort of change”
This inner fire to help women and girls worldwide landed her as a teen advisor to the United Nations Foundation Girl Up Campaign, for whom she raised nearly $40,000 and mobilized young people across the United States. Next, she began to work with Refugee One assisting to resettle refugees in Chicago, and in 2014 she joined the steering committee for the Women and Global Development Forum at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Just as Avery found her passion for change, she also found her voice. She was asked to lecture to numerous audiences of philanthropists, business leaders, authors, and humanitarians across the world on subjects spanning from “Genocide and Humanitarian Intervention” to “Technology and the Empowerment of Isolated Demographics.”
Avery’s mother, Ashley, recalls her first speech to over 1500 people at a United Nations Summit—she was only thirteen and very nervous. Ashley handed her a picture of a young refugee and offered this advice: “This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the child in this picture.” Avery gave a resounding speech.
In 2015, Ford Modeling approached Avery. She knew right away that modeling would provide a global platform to integrate her human rights interests and personal goal of influencing teens and millennials to be voices for change. Her work has been featured in publications ranging from Teen Vogue and Vogue’s online presence to the New York Times, and she has walked the runways of designers including Alexander McQueen and Roberto Cavalli. She was recently selected to be one of Teen Vogue‘s 21 Under 21.
Currently, Avery is completing a gap year, one in which she has been able to fully embrace her modeling career while trying to connect designers with organizations of change. “I have a responsibility to someone other than myself, and modeling allows me to see how the for-profit world has the ability to make a difference.”
Avery hopes to be able to leverage her newly found business ties into platforms for change, and credits modeling for helping unlock her full potential of influence. When asked what advice she would offer to young women and girls, she offered powerful words from her heart: “Do not underestimate the power you hold. Women are responsible for mankind; we should not underestimate our voices.”
Later this year, Avery will leave Chicago for Palo Alto.
“After traveling the world, I appreciate Chicago now more than ever. I love our city and hope to come back one day. Chicago has the ability to become a hub for young activism—we have so much innovation going on here at the moment. After seeing the world, I can honestly say we really do have the kindest people in the world.”
This Chicago teenager embodies all that anyone ever hopes to be: kind, compassionate, humble, moral, and a voice of change. Her love for her family and hometown will be carried with her no matter where she lands. And at eighteen, Avery McCall has the distinction of already becoming a Classic Chicago woman.