Mike and Cassie McClung established the Avery Elise McClung Endowed Memorial Aggie ACHIEVE Scholarship in honor of their 12-year-old daughter, who passed away in April.
Born with tuberous sclerosis, Avery exemplified joyful perseverance as she worked to overcome significant physical and cognitive challenges. She touched everyone who knew her with her sweet spirit and willingness to please others.
She amazed doctors with her resilience following a unique brain surgery performed during the first week of her life. With an incredible work ethic and beautiful smile, teachers at the private school she attended said that Avery often taught them.
While Avery couldn’t verbalize her needs and had physical challenges, she learned to adapt with instruction. This helped show the educators how their methods were affecting her, as they could then use that knowledge to teach other students.
“Several of her teachers reached out to me after she passed,” stated Cassie McClung, Avery’s mother. “Some commented that Avery was one of their first students and they were nervous about how to help her. Avery put them at ease with her joyful spirit.”
At Avery’s memorial service, her physical therapist Eda Lewis described her as an inspiration to so many people. “She never ceased to make me smile, make me work harder, or love deeper.”
Lewis also detailed the lessons that she learned from working with Avery. They were to never give up, practice patience and love unconditionally.
“Avery had unconditional love for everyone, especially for those who took the time to get to know her,” stated Mike McClung, Avery’s father. “They were rewarded in ways they didn’t think possible.”
Avery’s sister, Maddie, has learned many lessons from her as well. Maddie’s teacher stated that she is always ready to encourage others in her classroom.
“We had a student who spent her days in life skills, but always started her mornings in community circle with us,” explained Maddie’s teacher. “Maddie enjoyed sitting with her and holding her hand, encouraging her to talk. I feel that because of her sister, Maddie has deep empathy and will always be that ray of sunshine to others."
The McClungs were grateful for the private school Avery attended, which gave her the same type of experiences that her sister Maddie had at her school. They read about the Aggie ACHIEVE program last summer and were impressed that their alma mater was giving students the opportunity for a college experience that they might not otherwise have.
Aggie ACHIEVE (Academic Courses in Higher Inclusive Education and Vocational Experiences) is a certificate-based inclusive higher education opportunity for young adults with disabilities to expand their interests and prepare them for employment.
When Avery passed away, the McClungs immediately thought of having donations made to the program as a way to honor her life. They contacted the college development staff to learn how they, their family and their friends could memorialize Avery and support Aggie ACHIEVE.
“Aggie ACHIEVE currently does not receive any state or federal funding. It is made possible by private philanthropy and student fees,” stated Dr. Olivia Hester, Aggie ACHIEVE Program Director. “The Avery Elise McClung Endowed Memorial Aggie ACHIEVE Scholarship will significantly impact a student and their family each year by reducing some of the financial burden of attendance.”
“Mike and I feel like establishing this scholarship is such a wonderful tribute to Avery's spirit,” said Cassie. “We hope it will help give these students the opportunity to experience Aggieland like we did.”
To learn how you can support Aggie ACHIEVE, contact Jody Ford ’99 using the form below. To learn more about the Aggie ACHIEVE program, visit https://education.tamu.edu/aggie-achieve/.