POUGHKEEPSIE – City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison confirmed that Theo Arrington, lovingly calling “Tree”, has died.
Arrington, the founder of R.E.A.L. Skills, has had a profound affect on hundreds of young people with his mentoring and involvement in the R.E.A.L. Skills program which he designed to help educate and empower youth.
Housed in the Poughkeepsie Family Partnership Center, R.E.A.L. Skills was brought to life in 2007. The name stands for Relationship Empowerment Affirmation Leadership and affirms Arrington’s desire to use his own life experiences to help mold and shape the next generation of young people.
Growing up with a learning disability was difficult for Arrington. He was often misunderstood by teachers who assumed he was a “difficult child.” He often spoke of how the teachers and schools didn’t know how to teach those with learning disabilities and how they seemed to discard them.
That frustration led to poor choices and bad behavior, which would eventually land him in jail.
Determined to make the most out of his time behind bars, he learned to read and write, at the age of 29. That desire for knowledge fueled a fire that led to him earning his GED. But he wouldn’t stop there. He would also earn his Associate’s degree while in prison and later earn a Bachelor’s degree and two Master’s degrees.
Arrington often said that “knowledge was power,” and once that door was open to him, he wouldn’t allow anyone to stop his quest for it. Likewise, he was always willing to impart some of that hard gained knowledge onto others, especially young people.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in a statement said Arrington, “leaves a legacy of mentorship, leadership and inspiration for so many in the City of Poughkeepsie. Theo lived up to his nickname, ‘Tree,’ laying down strong roots in the city and helping so many youths blossom into strong, responsible young men and women, each reaching their potential and giving back to their community in his memory. Theo will live on through the R.E.A.L. Skills program he founded more than a decade ago and the countless city residents who have and will continue to benefit from his altruism.”
Mayor Rolison said he was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Theo ‘Tree’ Arrington, whom he called larger than life. “His heart was as big as he was. You simply can’t replace people like Tree,” Rolison stated.
“The R.E.A.L Skills Network served so many youth over the years, from those in elementary to high school. Tree understood that some youth need extra care to navigate through the various societal systems, to develop better skills and social values. Tree had a way of connecting with youth, and he led by example. He will be deeply missed,” Rolison said.