Friends, teachers, coworkers hold drive-by celebration for graduate
MARION — For Matt Dube, turning 22 marked an important milestone — one that his friends, teachers, coworkers and family members were all too happy to celebrate by throwing a covid-safe drive-by parade on Feb. 12.
Dube was a student in Old Rochester Regional High School’s Transition Skills class, a post-high school program designed to help special education students ages 18 to 22 prepare for their futures.
Dube’s teacher, Becky Okolita, said he had been a student in her program for four years, and his birthday on Sunday, Feb. 14, marked his graduation from the program. Okolita explained that because of the pandemic, Dube had been continuing his studies virtually this year for safety reasons.
“This was his last year, and unfortunately covid hit,” she said. “He’s been learning from home, which has been extremely challenging for him because he’s such a social person. He loves to be around people.”
And people love to be around him, Okolita added. Everyone at school — and really everyone he comes in contact with — loves to spend time with Dube, she explained.
“He’s just like a ray of light,” she said. “He’s a super positive and happy kid. He’ll come into the room and just put a smile on everybody’s face.”
Okolita said Dube was driven, hard-working and involved in many activities along with the Transition Skills program.
“He came into this program with a really strong vision for his future: He wanted to go to college; he wanted to find gainful employment,” Okolita said.
She said Dube was ORR’s first Transition Skills program student to attend college through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative. Dube said he took classes, including a college success course and a photography class, at BCC.
Dube was also an intern at Seaside CrossFit, where he greeted and checked in members as they arrived and helped clean equipment. When asked about his time at Seaside CrossFit, Dube said he “worked there with friends.”
Okolita described Dube as the Unified Basketball Team’s “ringer,” and noted that he once scored 34 points in one game. She also said that Dube helped sell produce at the EmpowORR Garden’s Farmer’s Market.
To celebrate Dube’s accomplishments and give him a proper — but covid-safe — send-off, Okolita said she, school resource officer Matt McGraw and others at the High School had arranged a celebratory parade of first responder vehicles, cars and school buses.
Okolita said Dube’s friends, ORR teachers, people from Seaside CrossFit, the school lunch crew and many others planned to participate in the parade.
With the help of a local police officer to direct traffic, a long line of vehicles — many decorated in brightly colored posters — slowly drove by Dube’s parents’ business, Lighthouse Liquors, on Friday afternoon. Drivers honked, waved and shouted words of congratulations to Dube and his parents.
When he realized his friends were driving by, he laughed, waved and shouted greetings with a huge grin on his face. Although his parents, Nancy and Paul Dube, had known about the parade in advance, it was a complete surprise to Dube himself.
Smiling from ear to ear after everyone had driven by, Dube called the parade “lovely.”
Paul Dube said the parade was “unbelievable” and “special,” and praised the ORR staff.
“He’s had a terrific time at ORR,” he said. “We’re really going to miss the support they gave us and him. They’ve been wonderful. Just wonderful.”
Nancy Dube echoed that sentiment.
“My son had the very best teachers in the world,” she said.
On that note, Okolita was quick to jump in.
“He’s not really a hard kid to teach. Anybody that has met Matt loves him,” she said. “Even the teachers that taught Matt 20 years ago will remember Matt. Everybody knows Matt because he makes that kind of impact on people.”