Meet the Mandell Fellowship Award Recipients

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Meet the Gratz College Samuel P. Mandell Fellowship Award Recipients

Crystal Celaya has always loved history and earned a B.A. in Education of History and English. In 2008, she moved from Michigan to a rural village in western Alaska where she teaches 7th grade Geography and 9th grade Language Arts. The majority of her students are Yupik Natives. She is thrilled about starting the Gratz Master’s program and grateful for the Mandell Fellowship which makes it possible. She knows it will be a lot of hard work, balancing being a wife, mother, full time teacher, and college student, but she is up to the challenge!

Jackie Kemper teaches several sections of high school history and a Holocaust elective at the Christian School of York in York, PA. She has been teaching the Holocaust for 10 years and often attends workshops for continuing ed. In 2008, Jackie travelled to Eastern Europe through the National Endowments for the Arts Humanities Program. Her experiences ignited a passion to pursue a master’s degree. Jackie is grateful for the opportunity to study at Gratz and honored to be chosen for the Mandell Fellowship. She shares the lessons of the Holocaust to encourage her students to become agents of change.

Heather Licht has worked at Salish Kootenai College, a tribal college on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, for 25 years. She teaches students through Upward Bound, a federally-funded program created to prepare lowincome, first-generation, high school students for college. Heather’s family is one of very few Jewish families on the reservation. Still, she has managed to raise her son, Michael, with a strong Jewish Identity. Thanks to the Samuel P. Mandell Fellowship, Heather is able to embrace this opportunity for graduate work in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and better serve the students of the Flathead Indian Reservation.


Kathryn Smith teaches History, Global Awareness, and “Remember the Holocaust” at Porter Ridge High School in North Carolina. She also coaches soccer and is a goalkeeping trainer at a local soccer club. Her interest in the Holocaust began after reading The Diary of Anne Frank and grew stronger when she took one of the first “Remember the Holocaust” classes offered in Union County. When she herself was asked to teach “Remember the Holocaust,” it became a passion. In 2014, Kathryn participated in the American Gathering’s Holocaust and Jewish Resistance program. With the Mandell Fellowship, Kathryn hopes to expand her knowledge of the Holocaust so she can convey meaningful lessons to her students that depict stories of resistance and survival. 

Kristi Ugland teaches English, Language Arts, and Literature for 8th-12th graders at Tree of Life Christian School in Columbus, Ohio. She has taught an in-depth Holocaust Unit for 10 years and believes that future generations must be aware of our history to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated. Kristi looks forward to being immersed in the Gratz Holocaust and Genocide Studies M.A. program. She hopes to learn about Jewish culture before the Holocaust, the anti-Semitism that prevailed during the Holocaust, and how hope and courage sustained so many who survived. She is grateful for the honor of receiving the Mandell Fellowship.

Bob Verissimo has been teaching World History in central California high schools for 13 years. He also coaches baseball and enjoys family time at the beach. Bob loves his job. He figures with about 24 years left to teach and about 200 students per year, he could reach almost 5000 more students with the lessons history has taught us and the horrible truths often hidden by overprotective districts or incomplete textbooks. He is extremely grateful to Gratz College for accepting him into the program and humbled to be selected as a Mandell Fellow. Bob will do his best to live up to the high expectations which come with that honor.

Kevin Wright has been teaching high school history in Bordentown, NJ since 2000. Each summer, he and his wife take high school students to different countries all over Europe and the Americas. Kevin also coaches high school soccer and basketball. Currently, Kevin teaches Modern Global Issues and Genocide. As the district’s only “Genocide” teacher, Kevin is excited to expand his knowledge base and improve his teaching methodology to share with thousands of students in the future. He is fascinated with Holocaust and Genocide education as well as the human psychology and behavior associated with such acts. Kevin is extremely honored to be a part of the Gratz community and is grateful to be chosen for the Mandell Fellowship. He looks forward to the learning process and is thankful for this opportunity.