MANCHESTER - Even the rainy weather couldn't stifle the excitement in the air for the 181st Burr and Burton Academy commencement exercises. For the third time in as many years, graduation was forced indoors due to weather, with the ceremony held again, like last year's, at Riley Rink. When the graduates, clad in forest green robes, pulled up in yellow school buses, the crowd exploded in shouts, hollers and whistles.

The excitement wasn't just limited to the graduates. Dan DeForest, math teacher, coach and chosen faculty speaker, said that high school has been 40 of the greatest years of his life. DeForest, retiring from BBA after teaching for 36 years decided to use his time speaking at graduation to impart one last lesson about energy.

It was time for a high-five for these Burr and Burton graduates Friday night at their graduation exercises.
It was time for a high-five for these Burr and Burton graduates Friday night at their graduation exercises. (Andrew McKeever photo)
Through their four years ar BBA, DeForest said the students all gained potential energy.

"Now you have to change that potential into kinetic energy of motion," he said. "You have to tap into your store of potential energy and use it to do something...Find the key to unlock your potential that you have built. Turn it into kinetic energy."

Go beyond, he encouraged the students. He told the graduates they could be an instrument of change or a byproduct and encouraged them to be the former.

Kevin Pearce, world champion snowboarder and founder of the Love Your Brain Fund also spoke about change in his commencement address. Pearce, once considered a gold medal contender for the 2010 Winter Olympics, crashed in a training run, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. His snowboarding career ended and learn how to do everything from swallow to talk all over again.

"Change does happen. I never in a million years would have thought I would be standing here in front of you guys," he said. "I have had this change occur in my life where I went from being one of the very best competitive snowboarders in the world, to fighting for my life."

Things will happen that you don't expect, he said, but it's not about what the change is but rather how it is handled.

The school bell tolled one last time for the class of 2014 at their commencement exercises Friday at Riley Rink.
The school bell tolled one last time for the class of 2014 at their commencement exercises Friday at Riley Rink. (Andrew McKeever photo)
He told the graduates that they can overcome anything. Pearce said he has since watched footage of himself learning how to do the simplest things - like swallow- after his accident.

"I was so bad and in such terrible condition," he said. "but it's not about that, it's about how you deal with it and how you move past it."

Along with DeForest and Pearce, the Brigheil Lalor and Lawrence Stark , who were named valedictorians offered their thoughts and advice to the class. Mark Tashjian, headmaster, said, the two students finished the school year in a dead heat, with the highest grade point averages after four years.

Lalor will head to Harvard University in the fall, encouraged her classmates to celebrate to speak their mind and let go of fear.

Kevin Pearce, a former world champion snowboarder, gave the main commencement speech during Burr and burton’s 181st commencement exercises Friday
Kevin Pearce, a former world champion snowboarder, gave the main commencement speech during Burr and burton's 181st commencement exercises Friday night at Riley Rink. (Andrew McKeever photo)

"I have been afraid to be unedited, to tell the truth unabashedly...and to inevitably be wrong sometimes," she said. "Sitting on my bed the evening of January 1, I deliberated whether to apply to Harvard because I knew I could be rejected in a second...Now that it is my destination, now that I have grown so much as an artist and a person, I vow to never again let the fear of judgement or failure stop me."

While she is still afraid of what the future may hold, Lalor said she will not let the fear hold her back from living genuinely.

Stark, who will attend The University of Vermont, encouraged his classmates to soak up every failure and experience in their lives. He told a story of overheating a solution in chemistry and catching it on fire. Only a few days later, his hair was set on fire. After those experiences, he learned he was not to be a chemist. Life, he said, can sometimes, like a botched chemistry experience can blow up. It's not failure, he said, but experience.

"The fact of the matter is no matter how many successes we have shared throughout our time at BBA, and trust me, our list of successes is lengthy and diverse, we will be handed ten times as many failures in our lives," he said. "We all need these failed experiments to create better chemistry in our lives. We all need to start calling failures, experiences."