Dolores Sheen made her acting debut as Ice Cube’s grandma in her efforts to make sure South Central’s Sheenway School and Culture Center continues after she’s gone.
“Those (“Friday After Next”) residuals have paid many a light bill at Sheenway,” says the woman whom Lionel Richie calls Mother Teresa and everyone else knows as Aunt D. “The only problem is, I don’t know how to look like a grandmother. I’m used to hanging with the homies.”
As well she might be. Now 67, she’s been working at Sheenway since 1971. Her father, Dr. Herbert Sheen, founded the school after the Watts uprisings in hopes that education would prevent future riots.
Since then, more than 3,000 low-income, high-risk students have attended Sheenway. The fully accredited school covers Pre-K through 12th grade, with classes that range from classics to agriculture.
Currently, each of its 31 students pay just $300 a year in registration fees. Tight budgets mean Sheen gets by on four hours of sleep. However, in the face of escalating health problems, she fears that the school will die with her.
Jodie Foster built a fence
In addition to donations from Russell and Kimora Lee Simmons, Mike Epps and Ruby Dee, Sheenway has seen Ian McKellen teach Shakespeare to elementary school drama students, while Jodie Foster paid for fencing around the school. George Clinton donates music publishing revenue, while the martial arts studio and community center is named Rich’s Place in honor of Richard Pryor who, with his wife Jennifer Lee Pryor, funded Sheenway’s summer program for gangs.
However, after three generations, the Sheen family is nearly tapped out. Sheen’s goal is to raise $5 million for a 2005-06 endowment to fund scholarships and programs like acting, fine arts, dance and filmmaking.
Sheenway is seeking donations of cash, stock, bonds, memorabilia or estate assets as well as volunteers for its advisory board and management team. The organization would also welcome invitations for field trips or fund-raising parties.