K-State’s student body VP got accepted to Cornell and didn’t go. Here’s why.

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Kansas State Student Governing Association student body vice president Ali Karamali poses in front of Anderson Hall, an icon of the school he decided to attend instead of Cornell University. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Ali Karamali, junior in chemical engineering, said he took a unique path to college: he chose to attend Kansas State University despite getting accepted to Cornell University, an Ivy League school in Ithaca, New York, and having never visited K-State in the first place.

After graduating from Olathe East High School in Kansas, Karamali said he applied to 17 schools across the nation. He had the opportunity to attend an Ivy League school, but he said it wasn’t the right time to go.

“I only applied to K-State because my mom wanted me to apply in-state and be close to home,” Karamali said. “I went to K-State on a whim.”

Karamali’s father was born and raised in India and had to drop out of middle school after his father, Karamali’s grandfather, died. He then began working so his siblings could keep attending school.

Karamali’s parents eventually met in India, he said, and got married. They moved to America in their early 20s with no connections and started out on their own with no college education.

“They built themselves up to give me the foundation where I could do more for myself and my family,” Karamali said.

After seeing his parents sacrifice so much for their family, Karamali said he feels driven to be successful and pushes himself to live for the same ideals they had.

Daja Coker, sophomore in chemistry, went to high school with Karamali at Olathe East and was in classes and the gifted program with him.

Coker said Karamali was very ambitious in high school. Karamali was the president of the National Honor Society chapter and he was worried about pleasing other people. In college, Coker said she has seen growth in the way he leads.

“He has made more of a point to be a voice for other people as opposed to [being] the voice for just himself,” Coker said.

Karamali ran for student body vice president of K-State alongside Jansen Penny, junior in industrial engineering and now student body president. Penny and Karamali ran on a platform of empowering students.

As a freshman, Karamali met Penny when they both earned a Student Governing Association senate position for the College of Engineering.

“I was brand new to the College of Engineering and didn’t have any contacts,” Penny said. “The first time we interacted was when we took pictures together for senate, and we really didn’t interact much … until we both applied for chief of staff and we both didn’t get that [position].”

Penny said he met with Karamali a month later, which led to Penny asking him to run alongside him as student body vice president.

“I wanted someone different from me, but still held all the same values as I did for K-State, and that is definitely what I got out of our first conversation,” Penny said.

The two ended up running unopposed for their executive positions due to regulation violations that resulted in the disqualification of the other candidates.

“In all of the different controversies, it was him and I together,” Penny said. “We have been through some of the most stressful times; having done that together really sets us up for the future. It was a big team effort and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him with me the entire time.”

Karamali said only having 12 months in office makes it difficult to implement a lot of change, but he and Penny want to tackle bigger issues because they set out to make a lasting difference in the school.

“He makes it fun and other-person-oriented, rather than a ‘You need to get this done because I say so’ type of thing, and I think their platform speaks to that,” Coker said.

Through the duration of his time in office, Karamali said his end-goal is to make sure every student feels more empowered so they can speak their mind, be open-minded and be leaders in their own groups.

After graduating from K-State, Karamali said he hopes to attend law school at an Ivy League college to learn how to be a patent lawyer. He said if he could choose right now, he would pick Yale University.

“This time around, it feels like it will be the right time, and I’ll feel like I’m ready for it,” Karamali said.

Karamali said his dream is to one day start a nonprofit focusing on education in developing areas and countries. He said he saw first-hand what both of his parents had to endure and, like them, there are so many people smart enough to attend school who don’t get the opportunity to do so.

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