Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Student portfolio is a jewel of an idea

For 38 years I had a picture hanging in my office of three kids in a rowboat, armed with wooden swords, attacking a pirate ship. The pirates wait pensively with cannons and pistols. As the kids climb ropes attempting to board the ship, the lead attacker screams, “Nothing is impossible to a valiant heart.”

I believe that quote from Jeanne D'Albret and once again I found affirmation in the heart of Brendan Murran, a senior at La Cañada High School.

Brendan is championing a teen initiative called the Diamond Fund. Their mission is to promote financial literacy among high school students. “Monies earned through stock dividends will support student access to opportunity through education,” Brendan explained.

The Diamond Fund is found on both economic and philosophical perspectives. The belief in economist Milton Friedman’s contention that everyone should have equal opportunity is foundational to the fund. Philosophically the student board of directors, Brendan Murran, Arman Zare, Eric Miller, Alec Lorenzo and Suren Kirikorian are altruistically motivated to provide the cultural capital to students who are unaware of existing educational opportunities.

The Diamond Fund is a fascinating endeavor. The students have meticulously planned their objectives considering portfolios of investment, risk management, criteria for selecting worthy students, and percentages of distribution. Their object to provide access to higher education is noteworthy.

However, the real story of the Brendan’s efforts began many years ago in Dublin, Ireland. Brendan’s father, Aidan, grew up unaware of educational opportunities. His economic and social status did not, in his early years, afford him the cultural capital, so he lacked the general cultural background, knowledge, disposition, and skills necessary to imagine the potential of education. Through the influence of a local successful businessman, Aidan was encouraged to envision the possibility of attending college. College became a life changing experience; subsequently Aidan passed on the love to his son, Brendan.

The Book of Genesis asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Martin Luther King reminds us, “We are inevitably our brother's keeper because we are our brother's brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Brendan recognizes the economic and cultural disparities of society and believes we have a moral mandate to provide equal opportunity. The mantra of the Diamond Fund, “High school students supporting high school students,” will go a long way at providing access.

Brendan chose the name Diamond Fund after reading “The Diamond Cutter” by Geshe Michael Roach, an Irish Tibetan monk.

“A diamond is a symbol of hopes and aspirations,” Brendan said. “I want the Diamond Fund to support the dreams and aspirations of people with limited opportunities. As the fund grows through donations and investment returns, I hope to touch as many lives as possible.” A basic premise of the book contends that we become successful by being generous to others. Dr. King believed, “We will not become what we ought to be until those less fortunate become what they ought to be.”

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” What he meant was that young people lack patience, understanding, and wisdom. They’re egocentric; much of their time is wasted on frivolous endeavors.

Shaw’s statement is an inaccurate portrayal of youth. Based upon the enthusiasm of Murran, Zare, Miller, Lorenzo and Krikorian the potential of youth is omnipotent. These students approach life with rigor and a can-do attitude. They are engaged in a journey that they created without the tutelage of adults. They are shaping events. Life is not about winning; it’s about trying things.

Note Brendan’s email: I encourage you to contact him and learn more about the Diamond Fund.

Robert Kennedy said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” The Diamond Fund will again prove, “Nothing is impossible to a valiant heart.”


JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at

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