Carnegie Mellon University

2021–2022 Family Spotlights

October | November | December | February | March | April | May

October 2021: Snapshot of Our Community

During September, the friends in all of our classes got to know each other by sharing information about themselves and their families, which prompted us to discuss similarities and differences so that we can better appreciate the diversity among us. The “All About Me” projects in the preschool and kindergarten give children and families an opportunity to get to know each other better. They will be highlighted on the classroom web sites for family viewing!

This year, we have 64 families with 69 children in Children’s School programs, including 21 only children. 27 of these families are new to the school. Among our families, we have five in which the parent is a Children’s School alum, and one of our kindergartners is the great-grandson of our founding director, Dr. Ann Baldwin Taylor.

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Seven of our families have a parent who is a current graduate student, staff member, or faculty member at Carnegie Mellon. Four of our mothers and one father identified themselves as stay-athome parents. The other parents listed a wide variety of professions, including Architect, Artist, Artistic Director, Assistant Professor, Assistant Store Manager, Attorney, Baker, Car Dealer, Carpenter, Civil & Environmental Engineer, Consultant, Dentist, Director of Clinical Education, Editor, Educator, Equipment Operator, Executive Director, Financial Advisor, Graphic Designer, High School Teacher, Mail Carrier, Manager, Mechanic, Medical Researcher, Musician, Neurosurgeon, Nurse, Nurse Anesthetist, Occupational Therapist, Physician, Plastic Surgeon, Podiatrist, Producer, Product Manager, Professor, Psychologist, Public Health Educator, Public Relations, Radiologist, Real Estate, Social Worker, Software Engineer, System Analyst, Tasker, Teacher, Tech Support Specialist, Theater Director, Therapist, Transportation Manager, Urban Planner, Veterinarian, Vice President, and Writer.

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About 25% of our children are dual language learners (16). This year, we have families speaking at least 13 languages besides English: Chinese, Farsi, German, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Spanish, Tamil, Telegu, Turkish, Urdu


As one way of helping families get to know each other across classes, we will introduce one or more each month in our newsletter’s Family Spotlight column. Please contact Mrs. Rosenblum if you would like to be a featured family. You can see prior family profiles on the Children’s School web site under “For Families”. The Grossmann, Johnson, Lama, O’Leary, Stevens, and Swarnapuri- Kamaraj families have introduced themselves in the last two years.

November 2021: A Fortuitous Adventure


Ten years ago, Jeff and I were recruited to Pittsburgh. Jeff was approached by Pitt Plastic Surgery to perform body contouring and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures. In addition, we were together offered an opportunity to pioneer research on autologous fat grafting to the feet. I was a podiatric surgeon and owned a private practice with my father in Rochester, NY, so the move was bittersweet for me, but Jeff and I were newlyweds, and it was a special way to begin our life together. In January 2012, Jeff and I began our fortuitous adventure to Pittsburgh. In 2013, we were blessed with our spunky daughter Ellen. As fate would have it, a colleague of Jeff’s mentioned that Ellen should get on a wait list to attend the CMU Children’s School. Little did we realize, this advice would be the catalyst for the most special friendships and a comprehensive and stimulating educational foundation for our children, promoting kindness, creativity, and confidence. 

Ellen began in 2016 and thrived in the Red Room. Not only did Ellen form strong bonds with fellow classmates, but she built friendships with student teachers from other countries (with whom she continues to stay in touch). She has so many special memories and endearing shenanigans with all the staff at the Children’s School. Having no extended family in Pittsburgh, the Children’s School provided our family with the warm embrace we were craving. CMU Children’s School aka, “our Pittsburgh family”, secured for me that the decision to move to Pittsburgh was serendipitous. 

ellen-jason-min.jpegDue to Ellen’s genuine love of the Children’s School educators, she attempted to “caution” them about her brother Jason. Prior to Jason’s arrival, Ellen forewarned the school that Jason was “trouble”. In 2019, however, the magic of the Red Room intermingled perfectly with Jason’s charm, ultimately dispelling Ellen’s cautionary counsel. Over several years, the Children’s School has provided Jason with warmth, confidence, and skills to explore his own identity and passions. He has formed strong bonds with his peers and teachers. The Children’s School anchored both our children with strong roots to approach their future with open eyes, loving hearts, and creative energy.

Jeff and I continue to perform our foot fat grafting procedures and are developing an “all in one” fat grafting device and an immediately customizable foot offloading device that will enhance our procedure but also have many other medical and healing applications. Ellen and Jason are paramount in helping us brainstorm our future company logos and jingles. We are excited to see how our Pittsburgh adventures unfold as Ellen and Jason advance in elementary school and we begin a business. We will be forever grateful for our Children’s School origins. You welcomed us, nurtured us, stimulated us, and confirmed that our move to Pittsburgh was truly “meant to be”. You will forever be “Our Pittsburgh Family”.  –Love, Beth, Jason, Ellen & Jason Gusenoff

December 2021: New Schools Abound


Hello! We are the Lama family--Prashant, Claire, Ezra (6), and Asha (3). We are so happy to have Asha in the Blue Room this year. Our oldest, Ezra, also attended the Children's School. When we would bring him into school (pre-COVID), toddler Asha used to try to stay and join the class. This year, she was very excited to be able to become a Children's School friend herself. 

lama1-min.jpegAsha wasn't the only one to start a new school this year. Ezra started first grade, and Claire started graduate school at Pitt's School of Public Health. Prashant is a mail carrier at CMU, so he sometimes gets to see Asha with the school friends while he delivers the mail. 

While we have always enjoyed being outside, we took to the woods when the pandemic hit Pittsburgh and started hiking, camping, and adventuring. Our favorite camping trip this year was to Cook Forest, where we loved visiting the ancient hemlocks. 

We knew that we would love the Children's School from the very first visit when Asha was a tiny babe in arms, but this year, especially, we are grateful for the safety and love of the Children's School family that has allowed Asha to thrive.


February 2022: Family with Sciences in Sight

mccray1.jpgHello, Children’s School Family! We are Brian and Alysia McCray, parents of Julian and Amelia McCray. Julian was a new addition to the Kindergarten program this year, and Amelia will be attending the Preschool 3’s program in September.

Brian is a Pittsburgh native and grew up in Highland Park, while Alysia spent the majority of her childhood in a small town with a population of about 2000 called Belleville, PA. Alysia currently conducts undergraduate research focusing on chronic pain and attends Duquesne University to complete her bachelor’s degree. After graduating from Duquesne, Alysia’s future goal is to attend medical school and become a neurosurgeon. Brian is a mechanic by trade, with plans of opening his own shop once Alysia has completed medical school. 

mccray2.jpgThis is our family’s first year at the Children’s School, and we are so happy to be here. Most of all, Julian has been incredibly pleased with himself when he tells his family members that he goes to a “college school”. Prior to the Children’s School, Julian did not attend daycare and, due to COVID, was only able to complete PreK 3 in person. Over the past few months, Julian has shown tremendous progress in many ways, which we attribute to the Children’s School. At this time, Julian hopes to become an astronaut when he gets older and said he wants to attend college at CMU. Even though Julian will be moving on next semester, we are very excited to have Amelia start preschool in the fall. This will be Amelia’s first time in an educational institution, and she is very excited to start. Every day she tells us how she wishes she could go to school as well. At this time, Amelia wants to be a veterinarian when she gets older.

Some of our family’s favorite Pittsburgh activities include the Carnegie Science Center, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Schenley Park Ice Skating, and the Gateway Clipper themed boat rides.

Our family is looking forward to watching our little Amelia grow over the next few years in the amazing learning environment at the Children’s School.

March 2022: Fun in a Family of Five

image_123923953-300x300.jpgHappy March, Children’s School Families! We are the Wasik family - Christian, Jessica, and Luna W. (in the Preschool 4’s Green Room), along with Luna's sisters June (2) and Maxine (1). We were first introduced to the Children’s School through Christian’s aunt, who is well known to the children as Mrs. Perovich. This is the first school Luna has attended, and we couldn’t be happier with the school’s welcoming program. The Children's School provided a smooth transition into a whole new environment with the perfect amount of structure for Luna.

Christian and Jessica both grew up in Pittsburgh and even went to the same grade school as children. They are quite familiar with the area because of attending high schools right here in Oakland. Luna’s father is an operator for a gas company, which is fun for the girls to see. He operates big machines and diggers, just like some of the machines that are across the street from the Children’s School! Luna’s mom is a registered nurse in an intensive care unit at Presbyterian Hospital on the weekends. This schedule allows her to also play the role of stay-at-home mom during the week. With all of the children home with mom, Luna’s house is almost always loud, crazy, and silly. The girls love having dance parties and making their youngest sister giggle and clap.


Aside from dancing, Luna enjoys coloring, crafting, and playing ‘mom’ as she cares for her stuffed animal friends. In the past year, Luna has not only started school, but she has also joined a soccer team and begun dance class! It has been quite a year for her, and she seems to love anything that allows her to play and interact with other children her age. Luna currently aspires to be a nurse one day like her mom, and she hopes to care for others who need help to get better. As a family, we love cooking, going on walks with our dog Howie, having outdoor adventures, and playing games.

Luna will be sad to see the school year come to a close in a few short months since she looks so forward to seeing her Children's School friends each day. The happy memories she has made this year will be with her for a long time.

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April 2022: Future Family Band?

forbes1-800x800-min.jpegHappy April, Children’s School Families! We are the Forbes family - Ariel, Brandon, Grey (7), Jasper (5), and Starla (3). Jasper is a member of the Kindergarten classroom, and Starla is in the Preschool 3’s Blue Room. Ariel is a Children’s School alum and is currently in-house counsel at PNC Bank, after spending a decade as an attorney at Reed Smith. Brandon, who grew up in Tennessee and moved to Pittsburgh in 2009, currently works as the government affairs manager for Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services. He has also worked for the City of Pittsburgh and as an adjunct professor at Robert Morris University. Ariel and Brandon played together in a band in Pittsburgh for years and are hopeful that they can get back into playing music as the children get older, or better yet, start a family band.

This fall, our family returned to Pittsburgh from Gibsonia where we lived on a 10-acre farm with chickens, a big barn, and tons of deer and raccoons that made their way through our yard every day; it was more their farm than ours. While our new house was under renovation this fall and winter, we lived in two different apartments, in the Strip and downtown, over the course of three months. Apartment life with 3 children, a dog, a cat, and a pet fish was challenging in many ways, but they quickly adapted to sharing a room and are now expert elevator button pushers. We are relieved and thankful to have finally moved into our new house in Squirrel Hill, which is also Ariel’s old house because it is her childhood home. Best of all, we are 2 minutes from the Children’s School! 

forbes2-800x800-min.jpegOur family loves exploring the outdoors together on urban walks and scooter rides, playing sports outside in our yard, and board games inside when we have the time. In his free time, Jasper loves to play with Legos (especially Star Wars), enjoys swimming, soccer, and basketball, and is learning to play the drums. Starla takes dance and swimming lessons, and enjoys listening to stories, playing doctor and vet, and playing dinosaurs and “puppies” with her older siblings (with Starla the owner, Grey the puppy, and Jasper some sort of wild dog). Both Jasper and Starla idolize their big sister Grey (a first grader at ECS), and they can often be found listening to her read a story and following her lead during pretend play or while in the yard catching insects. 

forbes3-800x800-min.jpegOur family also has an au pair, Direen, who is from Germany and is a great help with school greeting and dismissal. She is our family’s third au pair (following one from South Africa and one from Mexico), and the kids have enjoyed making a friend who can teach them about a different culture and let them try yummy new foods (shockingly, their preference is for the candies). 

Next school year, Jasper will be joining Grey at ECS in their Kindergarten program, and we hope Starla will join them there after she has graduated from the Children’s School. Jasper and Starla both love school, especially going outside with their friends and teachers. They are looking forward to Children’s School summer camp in June and are hopeful to see many of their friends there too!

May 2022: Scientific Nomads

img_0658-800x800-min.jpegHello, Children's School Families! We are Michele Insanally and Badr Albanna, Ayla's parents. Ayla is in the Green Room with Ms. O'Neill, and this is her first year at the Children's School.

When Michele and I accepted neuroscience faculty positions at Pitt in 2019, we didn't know much about Pittsburgh. We had been living in New York City – Michele's hometown and the city where Badr was born – for the past 5 years, but we were looking forward to putting roots down in a beautiful new place with strong communities and more than a little civic pride. Ayla didn't know too much of the world beyond her life in our Brooklyn neighborhood, but we hoped she would take to her new home.

img_0367-900x600-min.jpegBoth of our families are familiar with putting down new roots with new children in tow. Michele and her parents immigrated to New York City from Guyana when she was only a few years old, and Badr's parents arrived from Lebanon just a few months before he was born. Growing up in a new place as both strangers and natives had been a formative experience for both of us as children, and we hoped it would be for Ayla as well.

img_6100-900x600-min.jpegWhen March 2020 came around, we were excitedly looking for schools and a new place to live in Pittsburgh -- just as the world shut down. The three of us found our whole lives squeezed into our studio apartment; it became Ayla's new preschool, Michele's lab away from the lab, and Badr's virtual classroom. We decided it might be time to move a bit earlier than expected. It was a bit surreal to find ourselves driving along the interstate with our world packed in the trunk. The typical uncertainty about our own future was buried under the existential uncertainty we all felt then. On the road, we didn't see another car for miles at a time and wondered how Ayla would grow in our new home.

We had no idea then how fortunate we would be! Even under socially distant circumstances, Pittsburgh welcomed our family with open arms. Ayla absolutely loves her life in Pittsburgh, and so much of that is due to her life at the Children's School. She has really come into her own here, and the entire community of teachers, staff, and families have made Pittsburgh feel like her home.