MALIBU — Ellen and Michel Shane are looking to the future even as they’re dragged into the past.

This week will see the soft opening of a new tutoring service the couple began in memory of their daughter Emily Shane, days after her alleged killer goes to trial for the second time.

Emily, a former Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District student, was struck by a car and killed while walking down the 29000 block of Pacific Coast Highway in April 2010.

A judge declared a mistrial in February in the case of Sina Khankhanian, the man who prosecutors say was behind the wheel.

“It won’t be an easy process to go through, having gone through it already,” Ellen Shane said. “I will be very happy when the legal aspect is done, and I hope justice is served.”

Since their daughter’s death, Michel and Ellen have looked for ways to honor her memory.

The first turned into the website,, home of a “pay it forward” campaign the parents launched with a goal of getting 100 million people to document their good deeds on the site.

Now the couple will launch their second endeavor called Successful Educational Achievement (SEA), which pairs children who have difficulty in the classroom with mentors that can help them grasp material and get organized.

As with the website, Emily inspired the SEA initiative.

When she was in the second grade, her parents and teachers realized that she was having difficulty processing the information she was learning in school.

Eventually, Emily was put on a 504 plan, which gave her more time on tests and larger fonts on written portions.

She was even allowed to type her responses because her handwriting was poor.

Ellen Shane knew that Emily was not alone, and that many parents either don’t know their children have a problem or don’t have the money to pay for tutors to help them.

“I saw it like a safety net,” she said. “Identify these kids, get someone to work with them to help with the subject matter and whatever might be part of their particular issue so they can learn how to work with it and overcome it, as well as get the subject matter down so they can perform better.”

The only cost of tutoring: A good deed, documented on their website.

The SMMUSD Board of Education gave its blessing to the proposal in October, and Shane reached out to the district staff and to the Boys & Girls Clubs in Malibu and Santa Monica for help.

Both groups have committed to finding students who need extra academic help, and the Emily Shane Foundation, through its SEA initiative, will provide the tutors.

The program begins officially after the school year begins so that tutors from Pepperdine University can get paid through their work-study programs, but a small pilot project of between five and 10 kids will get rolling at the Boys & Girls Club in Malibu this week.

The club was excited to partner with the foundation on the tutoring project, said Kasey Earnest, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu.

“It’s something we do already, so it’s a perfect partnership,” Earnest said.

The foundation helps offset the cost of tutoring, and the club offers its expertise in helping to select tutors and provide space for the students and their new mentors to meet.

The Shanes are also working with the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club to open up tutoring spaces at their center at John Adams Middle School when the school year begins.

Boys & Girls clubs make great partners because they have the flexibility to take on new projects, unlike school districts which have more restrictions, Earnest said.

The partnership is a good entry point to the Shanes’ ultimate goal of spreading the SEA initiative nationwide, something all involved acknowledge is many years in the future.

“I would love to get it into other school districts,” Ellen Shane said. “Most middle schools have a Boys & Girls Club affiliation. It makes it a great way to expand.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *