khaniya holding apple in front of miller fountain
History, Movies, and Hot Tamales
First-gen new graduate charts her course for career in education leadership

Khaniya Russell ’19, B.A. History

She may have a weakness for a particular confection, but there’s nothing weak or candy-coated about the strength of Khaniya Russell’s convictions about faith, family, and education. “I don’t think it would surprise anyone who sees my Facebook posts to know that I attribute all of my current and future successes to God,” says the newly minted alumna. She’s also very close to her family, noting “my favorite people on Earth all live in my household.” Raised in Houston by a single mom in a “family of prayer warriors,” Khaniya was encouraged to love school and has known for most of her life that she wanted to pursue higher education and ultimately work as an educator in some capacity.  

Arriving at Trinity with no idea of a major, Khaniya found Trinity’s liberal arts curriculum to be “a Godsend.” She relied on her adviser and mentor, history professor Carey Latimore, and senior classmates to help find the right path for her.  As it turned out, “every history class I took just sold me further on teaching that subject,” she says.

Khaniya says she grew up in a "family of prayer warriors."

Khaniya’s strong appetite for learning did not go unnoticed. She earned the Presidential Award for Excellence, the Donald E. Everett Prize for Outstanding Student in History, and the Ernest L. Boyer Pre-service Teacher Scholarship Award. She was also named the Outstanding Senior in Education and elected to membership in the National Society for Collegiate Scholars.  

Displaying the same characteristic drive and enthusiasm she applied to her academics, Khaniya dove wholeheartedly into campus life. Her warmth and enthusiasm made her a popular resident assistant, University tour guide, and peer mentor for First-Year Underrepresented Students. She served as secretary for TEACH, the education service club on campus, and also as president and vice president of the Black Student Union (BSU). She found involvement with BSU to be a most rewarding experience. “As a member of the smallest racial-ethnic minority group on campus, the platform, representation, and community BSU has afforded me was crucial to my success here.”

To maintain her stamina for such a busy life, Khaniya relies on her go-to candy. “I could eat three boxes of Hot Tamales a day,” she admits. “To be fair, I have been eating about three boxes a day. Everybody needs a little pick-me-up around finals.” She also loves watching movies in theaters. Proudly displaying her four-year-old AMC stubs card, she says ”There is nothing that brings me joy quite like $5 movie Tuesdays at AMC.”

khaniya sitting on trinity university sign on campus


Reflecting on her undergraduate experience, Khaniya says, “The most valuable lesson I’ve learned at Trinity has definitely been to utilize the people I have in my corner. The number of opportunities people at Trinity have been willing to help me take advantage of is still unbelievable and humbling to this day.”

In July Khaniya will begin Trinity’s Master of Arts in Teaching graduate program thanks to a full scholarship, for which she is exceedingly grateful.   Her immediate goal is to be certified to teach social studies at the secondary level. Ultimately, she hopes to earn an advanced degree in educational leadership and become a school administrator or possibly even superintendent in her hometown.  “As a first-gen student, the chance to further my education and expand the opportunities my family and I will have is a dream come true,” she says. “I want to continue learning and working to better the lives of others by making public education more equitable and student-centered.”

You can contact Khaniya at

Mary Denny helps tell Trinity's story as a contributor to the University communications team.

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