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#TeamKayla Always: Alumna Kayla Nakonechni Passes Away

Penn State lost one of its own today. Kayla Nakonechni, a recent Penn State graduate and the person behind the inspiring #TeamKayla movement, passed away this morning according to many of her friends on social media.

Kayla’s valiant fight against cancer inspired the entire Penn State community. She was a regular Nittanyville camper and danced in THON, but her Penn State experience was far from normal. She was diagnosed with cancer in Spring 2013, the end of her Junior year. Kayla kept her supporters updated on her blog, which was aptly named “Life is Tough, But I’m Tougher.”

kayla nakonechni at thon 2015

By all accounts, Kayla approached her fight with optimism and positivity. She continued her studies and graduated with a Biology degree in December 2014. She was featured on the cover of Valley Magazine that fall and was planning on attending graduate school before the cancer returned.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Kayla said in that cover story. “You just have to get there.”

by: tammy martines
Photo: Tammy Martines

Kayla’s battle with cancer ended today, but her impact on the Penn State community will be felt for years to come.

“Make the best of even the worst situations,” Nakonechni said to Onward State in 2014. “Obviously I am in a very crappy situation, but I think THON is really what has turned it around…I am still getting treatments and going through a battle, but I am doing the best that I can with it.”

Our deepest condolences go out to all whose lives Kayla touched. It’s certainly a long list.

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About the Author

Tim Reams

Tim Reams is a senior majoring in labor employment relations.

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