Ellen Shane was pregnant with her daughter Emily when they moved to Malibu from Montreal, Canada in 1996 with great hopes for her daughters. Thirteen years later, Emily was killed on the Pacific Coast Highway after being hit by a car.
Shane and her husband, Michel, honored their daughter by starting the remarkable Emily Shane Foundation. The Successful Educational Achievement Program (SEA), which is part of the Emily Shane Foundation, provides mentoring to struggling students within the mainstream classroom who cannot afford tutoring. The program currently has nine sites within the Southern California area that benefit nearly 100 students, including in Malibu.
The Malibu Times sat down with the woman who, along with her husband, won a Dolphin Award in 2013.
When such unthinkable tragedies hit, many people give up in life. But you started an incredible foundation — what gave you the strength to do that?
The day Emily was killed my husband said we have to do something to honor her memory. The one thing she was known for her whole life was that she was very kind and compassionate. We wanted to honor her as a person. Initially we started with a good deeds website. I felt like I had to do something significant that would have a lot of meaning for her.
Tell me a little about SEA. How have you seen SEA grow and where would you like to see it in the future?
Emily struggled in school. She had difficulty expressing herself. It was difficult for her to put what was on her mind onto paper. The program isn’t for special needs children, but just those struggling for some reason or other.
Tutoring can be expensive. There are a ton of kids like Emily who are struggling. The program is designed to address mainstream kids who are struggling and can’t afford help. I created a model where the majority of mentors are university students. SEA is what makes our foundation. The children and their mentors meet for an hour twice per week. All the mentors are trained. It has nothing to do with intelligence. Once they get the right help it works really quickly. And in return, the children have to do one good deed for every mentoring session. So we tied it to our initial website.
Each and every child who benefits is huge. We are dependent on fundraisers, like most nonprofits. I work very hard. Funding and grants are the biggest hurdles that come in the way of it growing.
Is PCH safer now? How would you like to see it change?
Some steps have been taken and they are trying to make it better. There has been some improvement. I still see people running across PCH. I feel that in pedestrian heavy areas the speed limit should be slower. It’s a highway but it’s also our main street.
What do you miss most about Emily?
I miss her every single day. Her presence, her laugh. Being part of the family. I remember the first time I put out placemats and realized it was one less. Certain small things are very painful. Holidays and events are very hard.
What is your favorite thing about Malibu? How has Malibu changed in 20 years?
The sense of community. The fact that it’s more rural in nature and not an urban metropolis. I love being by the beach. What I love most is that this community has been so supportive.
It was more of a local beach town feel before, but I think that’s changed. The mom and pop shops are disappearing and chain stores are coming. I’m really happy they put a light at a certain intersection in Corral Canyon.
How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?
It was delightful. It was a two-hour retreat. I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion. It was wonderful. I was very honored that I was asked to do that.