Slices of bananas dipped in melted chocolate and covered in whipped cream; a meal fit for anyone with a sweet tooth. Last month, 13-year-old Jacarari Ogden prepared the delicious meal for her mother, Jenni Ogden, and Jenni’s business partner, Jeff Cline, after Cline’s stay in the hospital.
“It makes me feel good to do nice things for other people,” said Jacarari, a Malibu Middle School seventh grader.
Carrying out good deeds to benefit others is one of the main things Jacarari has learned while taking part in the Emily Shane Foundation’s Successful Educational Achievement (SEA) program, a Malibu-based tutoring and mentorship program for middle school-aged students. Along with helping kids with educational skills such as studying and organization, mentors preach the program’s key principal of “Pass It Forward,” which means performing acts of kindness towards others.
Jenni Ogden said her daughter’s deed was sweet and thoughtful.
“I think it’s a really beautiful thing they are doing,” Ogden said. “The Emily Shane Foundation turned a tragedy into something positive. It was a beautiful and selfless thing.”
Malibu residents Ellen and Michel Shane founded The Emily Shane Foundation and SEA Program after their teenage daughter Emily was tragically killed in April 2010, when a car driven by a suicidal driver fatally struck the 13-year-old as she walked along Pacific Coast Highway.
In early 2011 the Shanes started the foundation and a website in what Ellen Shane called an effort to honor Emily and the things she believed in.
“Emily was a particularly empathic and kind person,” she said. “She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was one of those kids who didn’t care what you looked like or how you dressed, she was just nice to you.”
Shane said the SEA Program, which began in the second semester of the 2011-2012 school year, is her way to “Pass It Forward.” Emily, the youngest of the Shanes’ three daughters, was diagnosed with processing issues and was a beneficiary of the state’s 504 program geared toward helping students with physical or mental impairments.
“If she was doing math and the problem was ten plus two, she would put 20,” she said. “If you said Emily the problem says ‘plus’ she would say, ‘Oh, 12.’ During the execution she would mess up or she wouldn’t read the directions properly.”
Now the SEA Program, which works out of the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center in Malibu and Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica, looks to work with similar 11- to 13-year-old kids from Malibu Middle School and John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica who the clubs and schools have identified as having some educational struggles. The youths are paired with college-aged tutors, who work with them twice a week.
“I thought, ‘How many kids are like Emily that might be falling through the cracks?’” Shane said. “When you don’t do well, you don’t feel great even if you act like you are.”
Currently, there are five mentors from Pepperdine University serving ten Malibu Middle School students and three mentors in Santa Monica working with six students. The trained mentors help students with their homework and push them to improve their studying and organizational skills. The mentors also motivate the youths to do at least one good deed after each study session. The good deeds can be anything, Shane said, from helping their parents wash the dishes to being nice to a classmate.
Of course the main draw to the program is the school help. Ogden said she enrolled Jacarari in the program toward the end of last school year after hearing about it at the Boys & Girls Club, and she is in the program again this year.
“Last year her tutor worked with her with study and organizational skills that she was lacking,” she said. “This year, she is getting help with how to study more efficiently and working on all of her academics.”
Elaine Himelfarb, a Malibu resident who has a daughter she did not wish to name in the program, said the tutoring being done in remembrance of Emily has been amazing.
“It really has been invaluable,” said Himelfarb, whose daughter is a 12-year-old seventh grader. Himelfarb said one of the best things about the program is that it is free.
“I would say some people make assumptions about people in Malibu and wealth,” she said. “I really wouldn’t be able to afford tutoring for my daughter.”
Shane said the SEA Program is funded through fundraising and donations. She said the only payment she would ever ask for is in the form of the good deeds that students and others do in the name of Emily and record on the foundation’s website.
“I got an email from a mother just two weeks into the program and she talked about how she sees a huge change in her daughter, she is motivated now,” she said. “That’s the idea, to make a difference in the student’s life.” For more information about the Emily Shane Foundation, visit www.emilyshane.org.