Our Team

Emily Carlson is the director of OMA Center for Mind, Body and Spirit’s program Art in the Garden. Art in the Garden engages a variety of modules that support youth in holding themselves and others in compassion and seeks to support youth in remembering the interconnectedness of all living beings, that we are all whole and all belong. Emily’s particular focus is supporting gifted and underserved youth. For over two decades, Emily has taught writing to students from elementary school to college. She also worked at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, led The Experiment in International Living’s program for high school students in Ghana, cared for horses in Italy and Brooklyn, NY, and studied poetry in Beirut through a grant from the Syria-Lebanon Nationality Room at the University of Pittsburgh. Emily is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Symphony No. 2 and I Have a Teacher. She lives with her partner Sten and their three children in a cohousing community.

Callie Gropp heads OMA Pittsburgh’s Surviving to Thriving Programs. A native of Pittsburgh, Callie earned a BA in History and African American/Black Studies from Oberlin College. She has been an educator since 2007, and increasingly she spends her time working to create awareness about the science of trauma and resilience. She is hopeful that through education, awareness, and advocacy we can establish Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, and all forms abuse as a major public health issue. In order to break cycles of silence and harm, Callie believes we must collaboratively respond to the collective arena of trauma and its effects throughout the generations. Through collaboration with individuals and organizations city-wide, she hopes show possibilities that emerge when communities come together to provide all people with access to holistic, trauma-informed and healing centered care. She believes that when we heal ourselves in the present, we heal the generations to come.

Dahlia Rao (Program Manager) is an education specialist and leader in arts programming, always seeking opportunities to engage creatively with children and address issues of inequity in education. She has a wide range of experiences with university-community partnerships, both in Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor/Detroit area. She holds her bachelors in History/Anthropology and Communication Design from Carnegie Mellon University and a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dahlia lives with her husband Shiv and three children in Squirrel Hill.

Joanne Riley (Youth Programming) practiced as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (pediatric and adult) for sixteen years until going into Health Care Administration. She has a passion for assuring individualized quality care and management allowed her to do that. After management positions including Director of Nursing, and completing her Master Degree in Hospital Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, she accepted a position as Senior Administrator for General Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh where she stayed for 25 years before retiring in 2017. Her responsibilities were broad including: residency training programs, research programs and clinical programs. Joanne’s last project prior to retiring was obtaining a large state grant to create an Addiction Clinic for UPMC. Since retirement she has been filling her life with volunteer work, gardening, creation with stained glass, and her wonderful husband and family.

Scott Riess (Teacher) is an educator from a small town in Northern New Hampshire.  He has incorporated place-based and project-based learning into every class he’s taught, from high school English to college writing, and now to here at Art in the Garden! Scott loves the outdoors and is so excited to work in the sunshine everyday!

Kastler Joseph (Teen Garden Program Manager) is originally from Newark, New Jersey. He has a degree in The Applied Sciences of Electronic Engineering Technology and in Electronic Computer Technology. Kastler has always had a love, passion, and joy for working with children and, after his son was born, realized that working with children is a calling. Kastler has a desire to assist parents who do not have the ability to aid their children for numerous reasons, the primary reason being circumstantial, and so he applied for a position in the Pittsburgh Public School system. As a Para Professional in PPS, Kastler has enjoyed working with children of all ages. He has observed that pre-teens and teens, who society says are supposed to be more independent, are the ones who are most dependent. Why? They often do not know how to navigate their inner conflicts, conflicts they experience with others, and conflicts with the world around them. Kastler also runs a tutoring service to aid children who are below reading level and children who are learning to read. Working with youth has been a wonderful experience for Kastler and he looks forward to opportunities to extend what he does in every and any way possible.

Ashley Seiler (Teacher) has worked in the Pre-K field for 12 years. Its her first summer with Art In the Garden. She hopes to return for many more. This year will be her fourth year at Hosanna House, in a Pre-K counts classroom. Before working at Hosanna House she worked at Arsenal Family and Children’s Center for 8 years as a preschool teacher. In a separate program at Arsenal, she has worked with with parents in a program supervising visitations between parents and children. Working with children is truly her passion. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education and plans to expand on her education in the coming years. She works several other jobs that also involve children, in many families, as a nanny, sitter and tutor. She is active in her community and helps with many neighborhood projects. One of her greatest achievements was being nominated by three different organizations in her area and then awarded the honor of carrying the Olympic torch through the streets of Pittsburgh. She proudly passed the torch to her classmate. Her father was also awarded the same opportunity during the torch passing ceremonies in Pittsburgh. Family is an important part of our lives and helps to shape the adults we become. Ashley is proud to be a part of the Art in the Garden family!

Jake Churilla is an experimental vocalist and performer (Carnegie Mellon A’17) who has a great appreciation for the physical and metaphysical power of the self, others and the Earth! As a Pittsburgh native, his mission is to share his knowledge and experiences with the city and the future of humanity. Previously he has worked with the Carnegie Mellon University Leonard Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach as a Program Coordinator and teacher. Jake is very excited to be a part of the Art in the Garden team and looks forward to educating the young, Pittsburgh community!

Marnie Quick began her teaching career at the age of fifteen by assisting her mother, Karen Sloneker, at Music Together First Notes. She received her Music Together teacher certification shortly after starting. After substitute teaching for a few years, Marnie attended a training for Kidding Around Yoga (KAY), certifying her to teach yoga in the style of KAY. She is working on starting her own children’s yoga business to promote mindfulness in children and to have tons of fun.

​Marnie has an extensive background in music, including playing the flute and the guitar as well as professional acting and singing credits. Marnie has always been a strong leader and loves being around the high spirits of children.

Kayla Small (Substitute Teacher) is a student at Oberlin College who studies women’s studies and pre law. She has a passion for working with kids and was inspired with the work the garden does. When she isn’t building fairy houses with the campers you can find her reading, exploring, or giving tours of the Oberlin Campus. She loves movies and Greek mythology as ways to pass the time. 

Emma Small (Teaching Volunteer) is a high school senior at Winchester Thurston. She is a passionate student athlete who enjoys exploring new things and learning from kids. She hopes to become an EMT and study psychology as she moves forward in her education.

 Annabelle Small (Teaching Volunteer) attends Winchester Thurston and will be going into her senior year. Through college she hopes to study education and get into a career in that field. This is her second year at the garden, and she enjoys being familiar with some of the campers. She has experiences with mindfulness and loves that the garden includes this practice throughout the program. She is excited to watch the camp grow as it adds an extra day and a second location. 

Iyonna Dunning, Cy’jir Francois, Alvin Nix served Art in Garden as kind, creative, and fun-loving teen counselors through the YES/Learn and Earn Program.

OMA’s Art in the Garden celebrates and supports a community of individuals with varied experiences and expression, including socioeconomic status, race, national origin, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ability.