Students at Tesla Educational Opportunity Center celebrate their graduation on May 17, but recognition for their achievement comes a few days earlier.

Each year, graduates at the alternative Colorado Springs School District 11 school attend a robing ceremony.

Each student may invite two important adults in his or her life to attend the fancy gathering at Tesla. As those adults place the cap and gown, the student’s faculty advisor talks about accomplishments.

“It’s pretty emotional,” said Mary Limardo, Tesla counseling secretary. She’s worked at Tesla for eight years, after a stint as a volunteer and time as a student.

While the graduation ceremony will cover awards and other honors, the robing ceremony Monday is more intimate, giving students, teachers and families a chance to share memories.

“There is more significance and personal things at the robing ceremony,” she said.

In years past, the event was a dinner. Shrinking budgets means it’s only dessert, but the food is inconsequential.

“It doesn’t matter because we can spend time together,” Limardo said.

Often, parents, guardians and others take the time at the robing ceremony to thank teachers and staff for making a difference in the lives of students. Some students attend Tesla because the traditional approach just doesn’t work, others are parents, Limardo said, adding that some are on their own, while others have very supportive families.

“The money is paying off,” she said, adding that there area lot of success stories that come out of Tesla. Students who might have been far behind when starting at Tesla graduate and move on, not only to local colleges but to out-of-state schools such as Cornell, she said.

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