June 15. 2013 3:44PM

Advice to West grads: Be passionate

New Hampshire Union Leader

Stephanie Mailhot carries a large beach ball that she got during the West High School graduation on Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER -- Passion and persistence were twin themes for the cap-and-gown gang at Manchester High School West's graduation Saturday.

"Here's some advice: Live your life with passion," Principal John Rist told 252 graduates at Verizon Wireless Arena. "Whatever job you have, do it with passion."

He urged graduates to show that same enthusiasm toward their family and friends, adding, "If you're a lover, be a passionate lover.

"Take it from an old guy. Life is just too short to waste any moment," said the sixty-something Rist. "Try to make every moment just filled with joy."

Rist took over West during the school year after Principal MaryEllen McGorry was suspended a few weeks into the school year for reasons district officials have not disclosed. McGorry later resigned.

Rist, whose tenure ends this school year, referred to the "stormy waters" that administrators helped calm, and a class ode sung during Saturday's ceremony contained the lyrics: "It's been a wild senior year/We didn't have a principal half the time."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the commencement speaker, said a lesson she learned from attending seven public schools was to be appreciative of others and to seize opportunities.

"When you take risks, sometimes you stumble, but the test for success isn't whether you have failures. It's not how you stumble, but it's whether you get back up, whether you brush yourself off, and you keep going."

Class president Natalee D'Antoni urged classmates to forge ahead on life's journey.

"This road will be filled with twists and turns and ups and downs, but don't let stop signs, one-ways or a fork in the road stop you from striving toward your dreams," she said. "Set your goals high and your dreams even higher."

Class valedictorian Stefan Rajkovic named a dozen-plus classmates who might go out in the world to make their names famous, just like a few former West graduates: comedian Seth Meyers and fast-food founders Richard and Maurice McDonald.

"Today, we all step out into the real world, and with the preparation that West has given us, we can take anything on," Rajkovic said. "So, Class of 2013, let's take some 'personal responsibility' and make a name for ourselves."

Parent Kim Burleigh said Saturday was an emotional day watching her daughter, Danielle Levesque, graduate.

"Now, seeing she's really an adult, I can't pretend I have a baby anymore," Burleigh said before the ceremony. "She's not going to need mom anymore."