Speaker Kayla Lass encourages grads to spread the ‘I love you’ effect

Kayla Lass
Kayla Lass

UW-Green Bay Graduating Class Speaker Kayla Lass ’23 shared her reflections on the power of saying the words “I love you” with the Spring 2023 graduating class at the afternoon commencement ceremony at the Kress Events Center on Saturday, May 13, 2023.

Watch it here at 43:18:  Spring 2023 Commencement afternoon ceremony

“Thank you, Dr. Merkel, for the introduction, and thank you, friends, family, faculty, and fellow graduates, for being here today. It is an absolute honor to be offered the opportunity to celebrate this milestone with you all. 

Growing up, I was quite a spirited child, constantly seeking ways to get into trouble. For example, one time, I received from my father the typical, ‘if you don’t stop by the time I count to three, you’re going in a time-out,’ he said, ‘one,’ and I said, ‘two, three,’ and then gave him the look of ‘and what are you going to do about it?’ Yes, I was that child. I was a headstrong little girl who refused to accept ‘no’ for an answer. 

David Beckham once said, ‘I’m a very stubborn person. I think it has helped me in my career. I’m sure it has hindered me at times as well, but not too many times. I know that if I set my mind to do something, even if people say I can’t, I will achieve it.’

That constant spark in my younger self has developed me into the athlete, the student, and the person I am today.

Now, I do realize not everyone has the same childhood experiences and backgrounds. 

  • Some of us were more introverted and thrived in a calming environment.
  • Some of us grew up with the responsibility of taking care of family members 
  • Some of us have served or are serving our country
  • Some of us are mothers and fathers who have to provide for their families 
  • Some of us are from different cultures across the world
  • Some of us are part of the pineapple on pizza club, and some of us definitely are not (haha)

All of us come from different circumstances that have led us here to this wonderful university. 

As an athlete, once you commit somewhere, the first question you are asked by others is, ‘why Green Bay?’

Now I know we all came to Green Bay to receive a higher education, increase our chances of capitalizing on an opportunity at our dream job, prepare us for the future, and maybe help us make a little more money. I also know many appreciated having their own bathroom in each dorm room and that most educational buildings were connected via tunnels. thank goodness, because Wisconsin faces some brutal winters. We also came here because of the people on this campus and the beautiful community surrounding it. Personally, I refused to go anywhere else where Bears or Vikings fans outnumber Packers fans. I just couldn’t do it (haha).

Our first year here, for many of us, 2019 was wild. Moving into the dorms, making our own food, working through homesickness, and figuring out where to find our classes were originally scary. But what was terrifying was going home for spring break that next semester and getting told not to return. Now I know the pandemic affected everyone differently, and I don’t want this to turn into something sad, but I wanted to touch on an experience that changed my perspective and approach to life. In that sense, I hope it speaks to you as well. 

My grandfather lost his battle against cancer on July 4th of, 2020. This goodbye was different than any other goodbye, I couldn’t hug him, he couldn’t kiss me on the forehead like he usually did, and I couldn’t even hold his hand, but I could say I love you. ‘I love you’ are three words we don’t hear enough. 

My teammate went through the same situation about a month later. She and I talked a lot through our grieving process and ended every conversation with ‘I love you.’ Fast forward a few months, and athletics were allowed back on campus to train. Shannon and I were so used to saying ‘Goodbye, I love you’ to each other that we started saying it to our teammates, coaches, trainers, and classmates, and I have even gotten very close to saying it to some of my professors (haha). This created a domino effect on others, and it got to the point where the people around me didn’t say ‘goodbye’ without following it with ‘I love you.’ Hearing ‘I love you’ has been proven to increase dopamine levels in our brain, boosting self-esteem. We all deserve to feel valued, appreciated, and worthy of love. The ‘I love you’ effect is a way for us to validate the belief that something good came out of such a dark time.

After two whole years of abnormal learning, we returned to the campus and experienced in-person classes again. Witnessing one another enjoying our time doing various activities was like a breath of fresh air. You could feel the excitement from our professors when they walked into the room, smiling from ear to ear while cracking a joke. It was inspiring to be surrounded by mentors who wanted nothing more than to see us learn and succeed. so much so that they presented us with many opportunities to explore career paths, gain experience, and expand our knowledge, and for that, we are eternally grateful. 

Everything in the past has brought us here to this point. As we soon move our tassels to signify our newfound graduate status, I want us to recall a few things. We will reflect on the opportunities and support system Green Bay has gifted us. We will think about the love we have received from one another throughout our time here. Lastly, we will determine how to present ourselves moving on from this point.   

I wanted to wrap up this speech with something we all know. A good old mnemonic that encapsulates the qualities we will carry with us in our future endeavors.

P- pesky, as we will never take “no” for an answer while relentlessly pursuing our passions.

H- hope that something great will ascend from every setback 

O- openmindedness, as our destiny is never one clearcut path

E- embrace the challenges life will toss at us

N- network, because the connections we have assembled so far are just the tip of the iceberg

I- ignite, the flame that will fuel our drive to succeed 

X- xiphoid process (haha); for those that don’t know, this is the third bone of your sternum that protects your heart, in which we will use the strength of our love to uplift, inspire, and empower others we encounter in the future. 

P-H-O-E-N-I-X, this is how we will show the world what being a Phoenix, means. 

Congratulations to my fellow graduates, goodbye Green Bay. I love you.”






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