The Story

In 2011, Shadi Pourkashef, a mother, composer/conductor and a teacher, felt the direct consequences of bullying as her then 8 year old son was subjected to what she can only describe as “horrendous ongoing peer bullying.” 

Recognized for her fierce advocacy to find a solution, she was chosen by the Woodcanyon Elementary school principal to become the CAC (Community Advisory Committee) Representative for the Capistrano Unified School District. For Shadi the urgency to address her son’s situation quickly turned into an urgency to address this epidemic within her community. 

In 2012, Shadi was asked to become a board member of the CAC, serving on the Ability Awareness Programs Committee, even though she had moved to the city of Laguna Beach. While this committee had developed wonderful teaching programs on tolerance, acceptance and understanding towards children with special needs, it became apparent that the area of bullying wasn’t being directly addressed. 

Later that year, during a CAC meeting, Shadi Pourkashef and another member serving on the same committee, Kelly McKinnon Burmingham, MA, BCBA, (now the Director of Behavior Intervention at the Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Santa Ana) saw the opportunity to fill in where their proposed programs had limited reach. Shortly after, Shadi founded Ability Awareness Project and Kelly joined as an advisory member.

AAP has developed a total of 10 presentations for parents, educators and students providing anti-bullying education that addresses three distinct groups: for the bullies to choose a kinder option, those being bullied to build resilience and feel empowered & bystanders to safely and effectively intervene; not only to identify and put a stop to all six types of bullying but also move towards becoming our next generation of leaders and peacemakers. Thus far, AAP school presentations have reached thousands of children.

AAP was operating under the 501(c)(3) status of Center For Conscious Creativity from January 2013 to December of 2017 in Los Angeles. As of January 2018 "Ability Awareness Project" operates under the Fiscal Sponsorship of OneOC benefiting from the organization's wide range of support as well as their 60 years of expertise in the world of nonprofit, specifically in Orange County.

In addition, Shadi was invited to join another 29 Kindness Leaders of our nation in a gathering in Half Moon Bay, CA on April 20-22, 2018 to collaborate on how to we can collectively make a bigger impact. That has led her to become the Goodwill Ambassador of World Kindness with the city of Laguna Beach and also a Founding member of World Kindness USA to help the City of Laguna Beach be internationally recognized as a World Kindness City. Ms. Pourkashef is also a partner with The Charter for Compassion, a collaborator with The Kindness Evolution, a Raktivist with the Random Acts of Kindness, and voted the Best Activist of Laguna Beach in 2018.

Ability Awareness Project was the 2018 recipient of Best Education Center in Best of Laguna Beach, as well as the 2018 OneOC Champion of Change Makers, and won 1st place at the Patriot’s Day Parade with a song Ms. Pourkashef composed about a conversation between a child being bullied and her consoling mother.

AAP has 12 active advisory board members, each with specialized training to bring relevant value in shaping and refining AAP’s contribution to the community.

Key reasons we exist and do what we do: 

  • ​Bullying related suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among children and teens
  • One out of every 5 students in California seriously considered suicide in the past year. 
  • Suicide under the age of 13 is happening one every 5 days.
  • 1/4 of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will intervene only 4% of the time.
  •  90% of 4th-8th graders experience some form of bullying or rejection
  • 83% of girls and 79% of boys reported being bullied in school or online 
  • Almost 70% of students believe schools respond poorly to bullying and find adult help infrequent and ineffective. 
  • Everyday, 160,000 teens skip school because of bullying
  • The bullies need as much help as the bullied
  • The bystanders, who have a huge impact on the outcome, need to understand their role while staying safe
  • 75% of school shootings are directly linked to victims of bullying
  • 16% of children go to school with a weapon everyday.
  • Bullies tend to continue the trend of abuse and violence into adulthood:
    By the age of 30, 40% of boys who bullied at school had been arrested 3 or more times. 

We believe the status quo is unacceptable.

We believe as human being we can do better.

We are determined to guide our next generation towards a greater social interconnection along a humanistic path. 


Our Vision is to ensure that everyone is respectful and kind to one another and that no one suffers from social isolation and bullying.

Our Partners