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People of Purpose

Connecting people to their unique human experience through Purpose.

Nov 21, 2020

Ellen Shane was originally from Montreal, Canada. She moved to Los Angeles in 1996, just before the birth of her third child, Emily, in July 1996. Emily's tragic murder at the age of 13 in April 2010 changed her life - and that of her family - forever.

Emily was in 8th grade and in middle school when she was killed. They created the 501(c)3 nonprofit charity that bears her name very soon afterward. Initially, it was a site where people logged good deeds performed in Emily’s memory to honor her persona. After two years of enduring the court system regarding the homicide, she felt compelled to do more to honor her memory and help others.

Emily struggled academically due to dyslexia and processing issues. She fell in a “grey” area, not needing or even qualifying for any type of special education, yet facing challenges for her knowledge and ability to be reflected in her academic performance. Ellen had worked with her for many years, but starting in middle school, that became a less than harmonious arrangement. Children in middle school are at the age of shifting from their parents as being the major influence in their lives, to their peers. Emily wanted to be independent and resented my constant questioning and help - it became a battle.

It was her husband who observed that while she could help her with her academic difficulties, the result by 8th grade was major disharmony. Her husband wisely told her to go back to being Emily’s mother - not her tutor and constant force of focusing on her homework, grades, etc. They turned to outside help. After experimenting (hiring very experienced teachers, educational therapists), the surprising result was that she performed the best with university students.

It became clear why; they are young, and a middle schooler can easily relate to them. Also, there is a comfort level. Rather than someone older, who is perceived as an authoritarian figure, a university student is at an age to which a middle schooler can easily relate to. Besides, they make ideal role models, as they are in university.

Ellen's experience with Emily, in which she learned firsthand that there is nothing in the school system to address children who fit her profile (a middle school student in the mainstream classroom who risks academic failure) led her to be clear on what she could do.

She created the SEA (Successful Educational Achievement) Program to support those children who risked failure in the mainstream middle school classroom like Emily with the type of support they specifically needed to perform to their best academic ability.

Unlike Emily, the SEA Program is solely available to those students who could not otherwise afford the type of intensive and individualized academic tutoring, and mentorship SEA provides. Ellen teamed up with a middle school teacher who had taught for over 40 years, and he helped her put the Program together. She brought her perspective as a parent; he, as an experienced educator.

She decided to only focus on middle school-aged children, not only because Emily was in middle school, but because it is a critical time to “catch” those students who “don’t fit the mold” and help set them on the path to success. If a child is below grade level in one or more subjects or is lost in math, for example, addressing the issue and offering solutions are far better than having them pushed ahead to high school when they would be truly lost.

Not only does SEA allow students to have the support necessary in the subjects in which they are failing or truly struggling, the vetted and trained mentor/tutors also focus on two key areas: organizational skills and study skills. The only “cost” of participation: each child must perform one good deed or act of kindness for another, and it must be entered on our website. It is important to note that SEA hires mostly university students or recent grads. They provide a source of meaningful employment. In addition to the SEA Program, she has a private practice for grief support.

Ellen is not formally credentialed but studied grief extensively and took a course for practitioners with David Kessler (a known “grief guru”). Also - she has written a children’s book, a true story titled “Emily’s Gift: The True Story of Sherlock and Jackson”. It is the first in a series of true stories about their dogs. She has won several awards for her work with the SEA Program. While the creation of SEA was a way to cope with Emily’s death by being proactive, and she loves that their work and mission is all in her memory, what drives her now are the results.

There is nothing more rewarding than giving a child the opportunity for a brighter future. The results of SEA motivates Ellen to continue - and ideally expand (they just need the resources to do so). Two of the awards she has received that are of note: A Lifetime Achievement Award from President Obama in 2015, and A Malibu Times Citizen of the Year Award in 2013.



Get to know more about Ellen: ⬇️


Personal Pages

⚫ Facebook -

⚫ Instagram -

⚫ LinkedIn -


Emily Shane Foundation

⚫ Website -

⚫ Facebook -

⚫ Twitter -

⚫ Instagram -

⚫ LinkedIn -



⚫ Emily's Gift - The True Story of Sherlock and Jackson - Book available here!



Listen as we talk about: 👂🏽

🟦 The turning point in her life and how she managed to turn this trauma into a sense of purpose

🟦 Why and how she started the Emily Shane Foundation

🟦 How descension relates to functioning well in the household

🟦 The SEA Program and how it helps kids reach their purpose



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