A 52-year-old college student is rockin’ out for autism

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Greg Preate, Wilkes-Barre, isn’t your typical undergrad. The computer engineering student at ITT Technical Institute in Dumore is 52 years old, and he’s throwing together — and rocking out at — a benefit to raise money for autism awareness at 7 p.m., Sunday, May 17, at the Irish Wolf Pub in Scranton.

The benefit, Rock for Autism, is a group project for his Strategies for the Technical Professional class. Along with the help of classmates Adam Lamarca, of Scranton, and Timothy McDonnell and John Zombluskas, both of Archbald, Preate said the group decided to organize a rock show since several members of the group are musicians.

“One of the guys from our group (Lamarca)… his niece has autism. So we decided the show will benefit autism,” Preate said.

Preate said he never thought he’d be where he is now — back in school and ready to rock out for a class project.

In February 2008, he was a laborer working a salt truck.

“We were salting the roads and I climbed in the back of the truck to break up the salt because it was clumping up,” he said. “When I came back down, I hit the ladder, slipped backwards and fell eight feet down onto my back.”

Preate said he had “eight discs out” and began collecting disability.

Not the type of guy who could “just sit around,” Preate said he knew he had to make a change. “I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to sit around and waste my life. I’m still young,’” he said. “I figured maybe I can’t lift anything anymore, but if I can educate myself and get off disability I can move on.”

Preate made the decision to go back to school in March and said he’s happy he did.

“It’s hard at 52 going back to school. Half of the stuff they’re teaching are things I didn’t have back in high school,” he said. “It’s a challenge, but it feels good to learn again.”

The unconventional student encourages the community to attend Rock for Autism, noting all proceeds from the $5 cover charge will go directly to AutismSpeaks.org.