As Director of Early Childhood Partnerships (ECP) at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, Dr. Larson provides strategic administrative and clinical oversight for ECP's research and practice initiatives -- HealthyInfants, HealthyCHILD, COMET and SPECS. 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 (2017-2022), the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start and Child Care Partners (2014-present), AIU 3 Early Childhood Program (2019-present); Propel Schools (2016-2019), Pace School (2017-2020) and the Pa. Dept. of Education (2010-present).
Dr. Larson was co-chair of the early childhood mental health consultation workgroup and member of the local young child wellness council as part of Pa Project LAUNCH. She presents ECP’s work at professional conferences and co-authored a peer-reviewed 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. She teaches Autism Characteristics and Intervention Approaches in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Leading, and Child Development in the Department of Health and Human Development at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. 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 14, 21 and 26, and their dog Murphy.
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 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 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 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
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.
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!