HOUSTON - Some former students who say their high school Photography teacher helped make them who they are today are coming together to give back to the man who changed their lives.
He’s been teaching photography at Yates High School for nearly three decades and so many students say Mr. Carrington is much more than a teacher.
"He’s a teacher, advocate, minister. He’s going give you a good word, a father," said former Yates student Bria Lauren, who is a photographer now.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s the value of the man who taught you to take the photo?
"I’m going to cry. Sorry. I love him so much. It’s much deeper than oh he’s my favorite teacher," Tamirah Collins said about her former photography teacher while wiping away tears.
Ray Carrington III has been Mr. Carrington, Jack Yates High School Photography teacher, and a great deal more to his students for 28 years.
"My students know I’m somebody who cares for you, who knows where you live, who’ll pick up the phone and call your mama," Carrington said while smiling. And he isn’t kidding.
"We would leave the classroom, go out and walk around Third Ward, and take pictures every single day," Collins said.
"I wasn’t Mr. Carrington’s student, but I would see them outside taking pictures, and I was like wow. I had never seen that before," Lauren explained.
So when the former Yates student heard Carrington is no longer teaching kids to develop film in a dark room, she went to work raising more than $7,500 so far, to help make sure Carrington has what he needs.
"Really just wanting students that look like me, coming from Jack Yates, to be able to have access to more, and they deserve more."
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Houston ISD says Carrington’s program is fully funded. Lauren says the money raised will still help with valuable instruction.
When we stopped by his class, it was clear the photography buff is just as comfortable talking shop, "F-stop, shutter speeds," he rattled off while explaining photography to his students. But he's also just as at home teaching his students' life lessons.
"Such as how to get along with people you don’t know," he says, and he’s often heard teaching conflict resolution. "So that when they run into difficulties and complexities, they feel confident that they can solve them."
"He actually takes time out to listen to our suggestions and not just tell us what to do," said current student Tyteria McBride.
Carrington’s kids have had photographs on display as far away as Saudi Arabia. For more than two decades, his students have shown photos in the Eye On Third Ward exhibit at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
"I cherish that moment. I really do. It made me feel like I could do anything and everyone saying how much they love my work, it built my confidence," Collins said.
Why does the 73-year-old give so much? "Because they’re like my children." Mr. Carrington may be a dad to only two biological kiddos, but try telling thousands of his students the aptly named Mr. CARE-ington isn’t just the father figure they needed.
"I call him Papa Ray all the time. I did not have my father by my side, so he was definitely a male figure. He was an inspiration for my future," says Collins.
One more thing, the beloved teacher is called, Heaven sent.
"Carrington was sent here to make an impact and to open up doors through a camera," Lauren smiles.
You can see the visual artwork of some of Mr. Carrington’s students for yourself. The exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston opens on May 21.