Laurie Dien grew up in St. Louis with dreams first of designing toys and later entire playgrounds. She went on to earn a B.A. from Barnard and a Ph.D. in environmental psychology from the CUNY Graduate School. Only then did she realize that her true motivation was a desire to improve the lives of young people in general. That led her to the Hasbro Children’s Foundation and ultimately to The Pinkerton Foundation in 1997. More than two decades ago, Laurie was instrumental in the founding of the Career Internship Network, a source of education and professional development opportunities for organizations that offer internships to thousands of high school students each year. Her belief was that to level the playing field, all young people need access to high quality high school career internship opportunities.

Laurie continues to have a special fondness for programs that provide career exploration. She helped launch the Science Research Mentoring Consortium a decade ago. Now known as the Pinkerton Science Scholars Program, it offers intensive science training and one-on-one mentoring in an authentic laboratory research project to talented high school students from under-resourced schools. And five years ago, Laurie helped develop the Mentored Internship Program (MIP) for young people in and transitioning out of foster care.  MIP provides work readiness, career exploration, and paid internship opportunities to young adults with little or no work experience. The interns are paired with mentors from administrative staff and executives at foster care agencies. Lately she has been involved with a project where graduating high school seniors take a CUNY youth development studies class that is integrated with college orientation workshops. The students work with young people at summer camps – while being paid through SYEP and earning college credits.

Laurie’s interest also extends to education and employment opportunities for those who are out of work and out of school. She is on the executive committee of the New York City Workforce Development Fund and her grantees are primarily youth employment organizations in the five boroughs. That’s a long way from the toy box (or the sandbox, for that matter), but we see evidence every day that Laurie’s still having a lot of fun.