HealthyCHILD Staff

 
Tracy K. Larson, MSED, CAGS, NCSP
Director, Early Childhood Partnerships (ECP)
Nationally Certified School Psychologist
412-576-7017
Tracy.larson@pitt.edu
 
Ms. Larson has been professionally involved in the Early Childhood Psychology and Education field for over 24 years. She began her work in the field as an early childhood teacher, first in a child care center, then in a home as a nanny and finally as an owner/operator of a family-based child care. After earning Bachelors degree in Psychology from La Roche College, Ms. Larson provided in-home mental health supports.  After earning a Masters degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in School Psychology from Duquesne University, and National Certification as a School Psychologist, Ms. Larson began working at Children's Hospital of Pgh./ECP, where she honed her practice skills in early childhood psychology, gained a better understanding of and experience in conducting applied research in community and education settings, and realized the value of community-university partnerships.

Currently, as Director of ECP at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, Ms. Larson provides strategic administrative and clinical oversight for ECP’s applied research and practice initiatives, staff and interns. She works closely with community partners to design, implement, and/or evaluate innovative programs aimed at improving the practices of early childhood professionals and caregivers to in turn improve the lives of vulnerable young children. ECP’s current partners include Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) Head Start, Early Head Start and Child Care Partners (1994-present), PPS Beechwood Elementary (2017-present), the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start and Child Care Partners (2014-present), Propel Schools (2016-present), Pace School (2017-present) and the Pa. Dept. of Education (2010-present).

Ms. Larson is also Co-Chair of the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Workgroup and member of the Local Young Child Wellness Council, both part of Project LAUNCH. She presents ECP’s work at professional conferences and recently co-authored an article on HealthyInfants: a tiered mentoring model for high risk teen parents and their infants that was published in Perspectives on Early Childhood Psychology and Education. 

Ms. Larson is a Pittsburgh native and lives in Northern Allegheny County. She enjoys nature and  spending time outdoors, kayaking, biking and hiking, with her husband and three children, ages 10, 17 and 21. She is pursuing her doctorate degree in Special Education at the University of Pittsburgh with a focus on early intervention for children at-risk for or diagnosed with emotional and behavioral challenges.

 

Denise Esposto, MS, CCLS

Denise Esposto, MS, CCLS, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Health-Related Professions with majors in child development and childcare. During her graduate studies, Ms. Esposto was a Graduate Student Assistant at the renowned Arsenal Family and Children’s Center, which was then the developmental preschool affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) and is currently a candidate in the EdD program in the School of Education, University of Pittsburgh.

Ms. Esposto has over forty years of professional experience working with and for children and families in a variety of settings. She was the Manager of the Child Life Department for 12 years and the Manager of the Volunteer Services Department for 2 years at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Prior to that, she had 18 years of experience as a child life specialist working with a variety of ages, diagnosis and programs.  Most of those years were at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, with 2 years of casual work as a child life specialist at West Penn Hospital in their pediatric and burn units. Early in her career, Ms. Esposto was a supervisor at Horizon Homes, Inc. and a childcare worker at the Shuman Detention Center and at McIntyre Shelter.

Ms. Esposto has been an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh since 2000 and teaches in the Applied Developmental Psychology Program, School of Education. She created and teaches two child life courses and two additional courses for the department. She has developed many educational programs, in-services, materials and presentations for hospitals, schools, community groups, organizations and national presentations.

Ms. Esposto’s professional interest is to work directly and support children to maintain and enhance their development in a healthy, safe, and nurturing environment. She joined the HealthyCHILD program in the Office of Child Development, University of Pittsburgh in September 2014. She is a Developmental Healthcare Consultant and provides developmental, behavioral, and mental health consultation and services. Ms. Esposto facilitates a pediatric bereavement group at Our Clubhouse, for children who have had a sibling die from cancer. She volunteers with Surgicorps International and has provided child life services during three medical missions to Antigua, Guatemala and one to Kenya, Africa. She is most proud of her two adult children and spends her free time at home relaxing with her Yorkie, Coco, grandcat, and 2 granddogs.

 

Tomasina Boyd, LPC, NCC, CCLS
 

Tomasina Boyd, LPC, NCC, CCLS is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She earned a BS in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and a MS in Counseling Psychology from Chatham University. While her education was in the realm of psychology and counseling, Tomasina was able to balance her passion and became a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) after completing both a child life practicum and internship at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. She had rotations in the NICU, PICU, a general pediatric unit, and the Emergency Department. During her internship, Tomasina was able to attend training to become a Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI).

Upon entering graduate school, Tomasina interned and then worked at Carnegie Mellon University’s Cyert Center for Early Education. With her time at Cyert, Tomasina was an educator in a preschool and young toddler classroom. As an educator Tomasina created and facilitated play experiences for both large and small groups, which met the cognitive, emotional, social, and physical needs of children while communicating the Reggio Emilia philosophy.

Tomasina’s research experience includes working on the SEED lab under Dr. Shannon Wanless from the University of Pittsburgh and as an infant mental health graduate research assistant to Dr. Robert Gallen on the HAPPi project during her time at Chatham University.

Tomasina is happy to continue to build relationships with children, teachers and families to support children’s social emotional wellness and maternal mental health. Tomasina is an active Surgicorps International volunteer and has completed 5 medical missions providing child life services to pediatric surgical patients in Antigua, Guatemala, Apia, Samoa, and Kenya, Africa.

In Tomasina’s free time she enjoys watching shows on Netflix and taking a good nap with her furry children, Mr. PappaGiorgio and Ruby.

 

Molly Matsik, Ph.D.
412-983-3745
 

Molly is an educator, consultant, and researcher working on multiple projects with the Office of Child Development.  She has a bachelors degree in elementary and special education from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and a Masters degree in special education from the University of Pittsburgh.  She earned her doctoral degree in special education from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017.  Throughout her doctoral study, she worked as a researcher, college instructor, and consultant.  Molly has a strong background in applied behavior analysis and precisions teaching.  Prior to graduate school, she worked as a special education teacher.   She worked primarily with students with low-incidence disabilities in an urban setting. 

Molly’s research interests include academic instructional design, technology, and behavioral interventions.  Her other professional interests include pre-service teacher preparation, professional development, and classroom management strategies. 

She currently lives in Tarentum with her husband and daughter, Violet.  She enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, and is a huge fan of the Steelers and all things Pittsburgh.  

 

Rachel LePage, M.S.
412-383-3718
RML60@pitt.edu
 

Rachel LePage earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI. During her undergraduate studies, Rachel collaborated with Wayne State University’s Social-Cognitive Affective Neurodevelopment Lab investigating prenatal neuroimaging and early childhood trauma for her undergraduate honors thesis, which won her the College’s Van Liere Research Award. She presented this thesis at the Society for Research in Child Development’s biannual international conference in Philadelphia in 2015.

Before her graduate studies, Rachel worked as a Research Associate under Dr. Erika Forbes in the Affective Neuroscience and Developmental Psychopathology Lab at UPMC, investigating adolescent family risk for affective disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia via diagnostic interviews and fMRI data. Rachel then went on to pursue her Master of Science in Applied Developmental Psychology (ADP) with a specialization in Infant Mental Health from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education.


Rachel focused her graduate studies on social-emotional strategies and mindfulness in early childhood within the ADP program and throughout her two-year internship with HealthyCHILD. She completed a Capstone project investigating the implementation of teacher-led mindfulness activities in Pittsburgh Public Preschool classrooms in partial fulfillment of the MS degree. Now a full-time consultant with HealthyCHILD, Rachel promotes a strengths-based, trauma-informed practice while working with children, teachers, and families to support children's development and foster nurturing relationships between children and adults.


Laura Campbell, M.Ed., NCSP
412-383-3590
laura.campbell@pitt.edu

Laura Campbell, M.Ed., NCSP, is a western Pennsylvania native.  She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Mercyhurst University.  Laura then moved to North Carolina and pursued her graduate degree in school psychology through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Laura completed her internship year at the University of Pittsburgh through the HealthyCHILD and Leadership Education for Neurodevelopmental Disabilities programs (LEND) programs.  HealthyCHILD and LEND enriched her interest on social emotional development in young children.  After earning her Master’s degree and obtaining her National Certification in School Psychology, she worked as a school psychologist in western North Carolina.  She provided evaluations and support for students with autism, traumatic brain injuries, and other developmental disabilities.  Her main focus was on social emotional development in preschool classrooms.  She created a county-wide model to support preschool classrooms and students with challenging behaviors.  Laura recently moved back to the Pittsburgh area and works for Early Childhood Partnerships, a program through the Office of Child Development.

In her free time, Laura enjoys spending time with her husband, twins, and 2 dogs.  She enjoys hiking, running, and being outdoors.  Laura is looking forward re-experiencing Pittsburgh activities.

 

Kelley Gavel, MS
HealthyCHILD Junior Developmental Healthcare Consultant
Work: (267) 863-9982
krg65@pitt.edu
https://calendly.com/kelleygavel

Kelley Gavel, MS, is currently studying as a second-year graduate student at The University of Pittsburgh in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Gavel is pursuing her second masters in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health counseling concentrating in pediatrics.  Gavel finished her first masters from The University of Pittsburgh this past spring in Applied Developmental Psychology concentrating in children with special healthcare needs and Child Life.

Gavel completed her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at The Pennsylvania State University where she was nominated for Student Teacher of the Year in 2017. From 2017 to 2018, Gavel taught 5th grade in Galway, Ireland, served as an educational aid in a high school special education life skills classroom and taught elementary gifted education in Central Bucks School District. In the summers off from college and teaching, Gavel worked at The Double H Ranch. The Double H Ranch is a summer camp that is designed specifically for children and families with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. After careful career consideration, prompted by inspiration by medical personnel and campers at the Double H Ranch she decided to leave the classroom and pursue a career in healthcare. Throughout Gavel’s first year in Pittsburgh, she enjoyed interning at a Pittsburgh based Oncology non-profit, Connecting Champions. Gavel was an active volunteer at UPMC Children’s Hospital where she had the privilege of having her Child Life Practicum in the summer of 2019. Gavel had rotations on the Gastroenterology & Pulmonology Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and the Burn unit at UPMC Mercy Hospital.

This past summer of 2020, Gavel had her counseling practicum on the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, she was unable to fulfill her entire practicum requirements on the CICU and had to move to next internship rotation at UPMC’s Center for Adolescent and Young Adult Health. Gavel will be interning on their behavioral health team until April of 2021.

Gavel loves her work on University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development HealthyCHILD team and is currently working on exciting new projects. One that is focusing on responding to childhood traumas in the classroom. The second, focusing on creating a social justice and equity curriculum for Pittsburgh Public School’s early childhood classrooms.

In her spare time, Gavel enjoys working out and taking long “friendship walks” around her neighborhood, Shadyside.  Friendship walks are either walking with a friend or walking and talking on the phone to a close friend or family member. She loves chocolate ice cream and adores cooking. Gavel is currently obsessed with her Instant Pot and new panini press. She plans to run both the Philadelphia half marathon and the Pittsburgh half marathon with her dad whenever races are able to be held again. She looks forward to her future as a certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) and as a certified and licensed professional counselor (LPC) focused on the mental wellbeing of children with special health care needs.

 

Justine Barry, BA

Justine Barry is a graduate of Chatham University, Class of 2019. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Psychology. Justine is a second-year graduate student in the Applied Developmental Psychology program at the University of Pittsburgh. She is also in the Applied Behavior Analysis certificate program. She plans on sitting for her exam to become a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst in 2021. Justine found her passion for working with kids and their families via the YMCA. Justine grew up going to summer camp as a child and wished to return so she could make a positive impact in a child’s life. She has acted as a summer camp counselor, a summer camp director, and an after-school care teacher. Justine has also worked for the Watson Institute as an Instructional Aide working in classrooms with kids of various ages. Justine strives to learn as much as she can throughout her education and work experiences.When she is not focusing on her studies, Justine can be found spending time with her family and friends, searching for the best iced coffee in Pittsburgh, or taking a drive around town. She enjoys listening to music, catching up on the latest shows, and being outside in the sunshine. Justine is extremely excited to work with HealthyCHILD, and she can’t wait to meet everyone!