Trinity continues to grow into a diverse body of students, faculty, and staff, connected to a wide range of communities both within the United States and abroad.
To honor these connections, the University has begun celebrating several inclusive senior ceremonies. These events recognize graduating seniors from Black, Latina/o, and international communities and serve as a chance for these Tigers to come together with their families, friends, and supporting network of professors, Trinity staff members, and fellow students before commencement.
Black, green, red, yellow, and purple: these are iconic colors of the Akan ethnic group from south Ghana, draped through woven cloths called “Kente” stoles and bestowed throughout history on ancient kings and queens.
At Trinity, Khaniya Russell ’19 and the Black Student Union have given the Kente cloth a place of equal joy: an annual graduation ceremony where seniors are honored by their peers in front of their families and friends, one of whom bestows the student with the unique stole.
“This symbolizes the honor they’re receiving by going through commencement,” Russell says. “It’s a ceremony that comes from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and it’s so important to us that we’ve turned this into an annual event at Trinity, too.”
One by one, each honored individual gets introduced by another honoree. These introductions describe the degree and the organizations each student has been involved with, and the roles of responsibility each has assumed during their four years on campus, as well as their proudest moments and accomplishments at Trinity.
“This is for students who’ve had really significant and unique hardships that they’ve had to persevere through, and to honor their efforts,” Russell says. “This is an intimate ceremony, and it’s important for them to have their family there with them to celebrate.”
For each senior, having their family on hand for the Kente ceremony is an unforgettable experience, Russell says.
“Traditionally, I think a lot of times in black and African culture, you’ll see large family gatherings to honor accomplishments like this—like graduating—and that’s kind of the root of the tradition,” Russell explains. “This Kente ceremony, it’s a really humbling experience.”
For Janett Muñoz ’18, Trinity’s De Colores ceremony is a chance to show the world that unity is stronger than division.
At De Colores—a unique celebration of Trinity’s graduating Latina/o seniors that takes its name from the Spanish term for “in colors”—Tigers such as Muñoz have headed to Trinity’s Parker Chapel, along with invited families, friends, and countless members of the Trinity community who have supported them in school. Each student selects a loved one to present them with a colorful stole in honor of their graduation.
“The colors on the stoles represent the many colors of the Latino people, the many areas we come from and languages we speak,” Muñoz says. “As minorities, we are always being fragmented and divided—by race, income, education, even body type—but this ceremony is a way for us to be united.”
A first-generation college student, Muñoz emigrated from Aguascalientes, Mexico, with her parents when she was a child. While Muñoz still has extended family in Mexico—beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins whom she visits every year—she went to McCollum High School in San Antonio and calls the city’s Southside home.
“Latinos are underrepresented at highly-ranked universities, so when I first came to Trinity, I found myself adjusting my behavior, ‘fixing’ my mannerisms, my jokes, to fit in,” Muñoz says.
“But after my first couple of years here,” Muñoz adds, “I found a really good community for people of color, and for Latinos.”
As a testament to this community, it was only natural that Muñoz invited a seemingly endless list of guests to De Colores.
“I invited pretty much every department chair to the ceremony,” Muñoz says. “I invited the Aramark ladies, my friends, my family— because this graduation isn’t just my accomplishment.”
In March 2019, 57 graduating seniors gathered together in Parker Chapel for the first annual Trinity Recognition for International Engagement ceremony. The ceremony honored both international students graduating from Trinity, as well as students who studied abroad during their time at the University. The chapel was buzzing as antsy seniors reminisced about the memories and life lessons they had gained from studying in a foreign country.
Sabrina Cortez, a study abroad advisor for the Center for International Engagement (CIE), began the ceremony by congratulating the students for their commitment to “internationalizing our campus.” The students recognized at the ceremony had taken opportunities to participate in a global community, increasing their ability to effectively communicate with people from diverse backgrounds.
Sashes were presented by Sheryl Tynes, vice president for Student Life, to 15 international students representing 11 different countries and 42 students who had traveled abroad to 18 different countries and six continents during their studies. The sashes showcase the flag of the student’s country of origin or study and are intended for the seniors to wear on graduation day.
Two students spoke about the lasting impact their experiences abroad have had on them. Kenneth Lucas Kusima ’19, an international student from Tanzania, shared the three most important lessons he and his fellow international student, will take away from their time in America:
“One, we had a realization that we are capable of whatever we set our minds to. Two, we learned how to be citizens of the world and saw that there are strengths that exist in our differences, and lastly three: many of us formed a new sense of appreciation and patriotism for where we come from,” Kusima said.
“It’s a big deal that we’re graduating. We came from different areas, came from different colors and families… but we came together.” Janet Muñoz ’18