Kristen Burns is associate director at The Grable Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth in southwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to focusing on early childhood issues, Kristen’s grantmaking portfolio includes a wide range of nonprofits serving kids of all ages through formal and informal learning, mentoring, advocacy and support for educators. Kristen grew up in New Hampshire and Washington, D.C., and before moving to Pittsburgh in 2006, she lived and worked in Chicago and San Francisco. Kristen lives in Point Breeze with her husband, Brent, and their three children, and serves on the board of trustees at Winchester Thurston School. After 11 years here — the longest she’s lived anywhere — Kristen is glad to call Pittsburgh home.

Kristen Burns

Kristen Burns. Photo by Elan Mizrahi.

Best part of your job?

In my role at the Grable Foundation, I’m inspired over and over again by the wise, creative and persistent leaders who work in our region’s nonprofits and who never fail to see possibilities amidst the challenges. It’s hard to have a bad day at work when you’re constantly reminded of all the good being done in and around Pittsburgh on behalf of kids.

Your not-so-secret Pittsburgh spot?

The trails in Frick Park are my favorite place to clear my head and restore my energy. Whether it’s a hike with my family, exploring tiny creek critters with my kids or going for a run on my own, I’m convinced that being in the woods is good for the soul in any season.

Fill in the blank: My car has logged the most hours on _____.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike. My work takes me regularly to Harrisburg and Washington, and my parents live in the central part of the state. While the road has its hazards — from speeding trucks to wayward wildlife in the traffic lanes —  you can also find beautiful views of the rural hills and sky when driving east in the early morning hours.

Who is the last person you texted (and what was it about)?

My college roommate, who sent me a silly birthday message. She’s been able to make me laugh for decades!

Kristen kayaking on the Allegheny River.

Best day-trip escape from the city?

In the winter, skiing in the Laurel Highlands. We’re lucky to live so close that a ski day can be a spur-of-the-moment decision. After a few years of (mostly) patient persistence as our kids learned the basics, we’re now all fans. They keep improving — it won’t be long before I’m the slowest of the bunch!

What upcoming events are you excited to attend?

On Friday, December 1, I’ll be at the Remake Learning Network Assembly — a gathering of educators and innovators working collaboratively to shape the future of teaching and learning. This annual event serves as a launchpad for Remake Learning’s work in the coming year, and is a great way to get excited about what’s ahead as we build learning experiences that are engaging, relevant and equitable for all of our region’s kids. Join us if you can — it’s open to the public at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont!

On Saturday, December 2, my family and I will head to Light Up Point Breeze, our neighborhood’s micro-version of Light Up Night, to enjoy holiday lights and music while catching up with our neighbors. Hot chocolate and soup are always available to help keep us toasty while we mingle.

Later in December we’ll visit the Winter Light Garden at Phipps Conservatory and have a three-generation outing to see Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” — both family traditions for this time of year.

The rest of our month will be a festive mash-up of holiday activities (student performances, baking, gift-giving and get-togethers with friends) and everyday life (sports practices and games, playdates, homework and afterschool activities). As a family of five with two working parents, it’s important to step back and remember to find the joy in the chaos, especially during the holidays. It’s always there … even if it’s buried under two loads of laundry.

See who else is NEXT Up here.

Have a NEXT Up suggestion? Email us!