Assistant Director of Fitness and Wellness Reflects on Holiday Season, New Year
Meet Gabriella “Bella” Miceli ’13, assistant director of fitness and wellness at ChargerREC, who grew up celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas, and whose favorite memory of 2019 was helping to launch a new resource to help students.
December 16, 2019
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
The lifeblood of the University of New Haven are the faculty and staff members who dedicate their lives to helping our students reach their goals. Periodically, we’ll introduce you to a member of the staff so you can learn more about him or her – beyond their day to day work.
Next up is Gabriella “Bella” Miceli ’13, assistant director of fitness and wellness at ChargerREC, who values the importance of giving heartfelt gifts and giving back.
Renee Chmiel: Do you celebrate any winter holidays? What are some of your favorite childhood memories of celebrating?
Bella Miceli: My mother was Jewish and my father was Catholic, so growing up I used to celebrate both Christian and Jewish holidays. I would go to my Jewish grandmother’s house for Hanukkah and Passover, and she would teach me about Jewish traditions. My Italian grandfather also lived in a part of Brooklyn that used to be predominantly Italian and slowly became more of a Hasidic Jewish area. His tenants are a Jewish family that also loved having me over for the holidays. I would be respectful and cover up fully, usually calling it my “Jewish Dress” when I would visit them.
For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I would split the holiday between families, and I always had Christmas dinner in the house I grew up in. We would invite other relatives and have a traditional Italian feast with multiple courses. Of course, football was on in the background. I remember my grandmother and aunt cooking and baking for days leading up to Christmas Day. When Christmas Day came, they were still cooking the turkey and ham, and heating up foods like baked ziti and lasagna. Food was always the main focus of the holiday, and there were plenty of leftovers.
"Santa was always very generous, and I was so excited to be playing with new toys and dressing up in new play clothes."Gabriella "Bella" Miceli '13
As a child, I lived downstairs from my cousin. On Christmas morning, I would run upstairs. On one side of the living room were all the toys that Santa brought her and on the other side were all of mine. Santa was always very generous, and I was so excited to be playing with new toys and dressing up in new play clothes.
When I was younger, my grandmother would go to Florida for Thanksgiving, and she would always bring my cousin and me Christmas pajamas. I was always very excited to wear them on Christmas Eve. During the day, I loved seeing family members that I did not see often, and I received even more presents from them. Being a kid at Christmastime was fun and exciting.
RC: What is the best gift you have ever given to someone?
BM: The best gift I have given someone was something I gave to my aunt. My grandmother passed away a year ago in August, and when she was in the hospital, I took a picture of her holding my aunt’s hand. I asked a friend of mine who was an art major at the University if she could paint the image. She did an amazing job, and I sent it to my aunt right before Christmas. She had it framed, and it is hanging in her living room. It was a heartfelt gift that I knew she would really appreciate. My aunt was very touched when she received it.
"Looking ahead to 2020, I am excited to see where life brings me in the New Year."Gabriella "Bella" Miceli '13
RC: What is your favorite winter activity?
BM:There are big houses a few blocks away from where I grew up in Brooklyn. Every year, the houses are decorated, and there are characters outside, such as Elmo or Cookie Monster, giving out candy canes. The area is known for these elaborate decorations, and it has been on many television broadcasts. People take big buses from all over to come and see it. Parking is nearly impossible, so a lot of people walk through the neighborhoods to take pictures in front of the houses. I’ve seen houses with tall nutcrackers beside their doors and lawns with "It’s a Small World" like in Disney. Each year, I loved to see the houses and meet the characters by the hot chocolate stand.
RC: What is one thing you are looking forward to in 2020?
BM: As my life has evolved, I have moved around the country, never really dreaming that I would have certain jobs or be in certain parts of the country. When opportunities arise – even if there is a risk to be taken to better my life – I go for it. Looking ahead to 2020, I am excited to see where life brings me in the New Year. I have no expectations and I just hope I am happy, healthy, and financially stable.
RC: What is your favorite memory from 2019?
BM: In 2019, I worked with Katie George, operations and events manager for the University’s Career Development Center, to open the University’s new Career Closet/Campus Pantry on Ruden Street. I take great pride in this initiative that we worked hard on for the past few years. Although we started working separately, we collaborated when we realized we were both trying to help students in need.
"It was a great accomplishment for me to be able to provide this space for our students and to show how Chargers can help Chargers."Gabriella "Bella" Miceli '13
I graduated from the University of New Haven in 2013, and I remember the challenges I faced as a first-generation college student. My dad was on social security disability, and I remember being food insecure at times when I lived with just him.
Seeing that some students were facing the same challenges opened my eyes to this problem that affects students on college campuses across the nation. I value the impact this will have on students, and I believe that it will show them that we care and are here to help. It was a great accomplishment for me to be able to provide this space for our students and to show how Chargers can help Chargers.