A Grateful New Grad

April Komal’s path to—and through—Penn State was rarely easy. That might be why it’s been so rewarding.

head shot of April Komal standing near Old Main, courtesy


Back in April, a couple of weeks before spring commencement, April Komal met me downtown for coffee. The chance to hear from such engaged and passionate students—Komal was executive director of last year’s Homecoming—might be the best part of my job. It’s almost certainly the most inspiring.

Komal was born in Queens, New York, to parents who emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago; the family traces its lineage to people who were brought to the Caribbean from India as indentured servants in the 19th century. Her family lived below the poverty line throughout her childhood, spent first in New York and eventually near Downingtown, Pa. It was after her sophomore year of high school that Komal got a glimpse of the path to a better life.

She spent a month that summer at University Park taking part in the Summer College Opportunity Program in Education (S.C.O.P.E.), which offers high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds a firsthand taste of college coursework and life on campus. That experience helped convince her to choose Penn State for college. The mix of what she’s overcome and accomplished since is humbling.

A Bunton-Waller Merit Award recipient, she relied on eight to 10 scholarships per year to cover tuition and room and board. Family upheaval left her briefly homeless last summer; help from a student advocacy specialist in the Office of Education & Social Equity and access to counseling through the College of Education’s Herr Clinic and the university’s Counseling & Psychological Services helped her manage that challenge—and her mental health. Despite all that, by any measure, she has thrived.

Komal poured herself into leadership roles at Model UN, the Multicultural Education Student Association, Gender Equity peer educators, and of course, Homecoming. She graduated in May with a secondary education degree and three minors: history, social justice in education, and classics and ancient Mediterranean studies. When we last spoke, Komal ’24 Edu was weighing possible teaching gigs and considering law school.

Komal wanted to share her story to help raise awareness of the challenges facing so many of today’s college students—as well as the opportunities. She’s had it harder than most, which is why I was struck by a recurring theme in her story: gratitude. From scholarship support to dedicated staff to the peer group she built over her four years on campus, Komal says, “I’m so grateful I ended up choosing Penn State.”

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Ryan Jones '95 Com | Editor
ryanjones@psu.edu | X @RJPennStater