HAYWARD, Calif. (KTVU) - Her students describe her as a mentor, best friend, and mother to all.
As Marithess Rico seeks a life-saving kidney transplant, her former students have rallied in her support.
They want to raise money to help cover medical expenses for the teacher who has taught bio-technology to students from Oakland Technical High School and Berkeley High.
Rico was recently diagnosed with stage 5 chronic kidney disease.
On a GoFundMe page set up for Rico, it says, "doctors have determined that her kidneys are currently functioning at less than 10%. She had to put her new job on hold and has less than a year to find a donor."
Organizers say medical costs are mounting even with health insurance.
So a group of Rico's former students have planned a series of fundraisers for the woman they say "has poured her love into and coached countless students to help us achieve great things."
Over the weekend students held a garage sale in Hayward.
They're also planning other fundraisers including a salsa dance event and a walk-a-thon.
Organizers say every single one of the students that Rico has worked with has graduated from high school.
"Many of the students found themselves achieving what they thought was impossible, being accepted into well known colleges or even securing a well paying job in the biotech field."
Students say Rico always made them feel like she was there for them, demonstrating "endless support and sacrifice."
They say she would give them her mobile number and let them know that she was available to them 24/7.
And no matter how exhausted she was in her own life, she went above and beyond for her students, always with a smile on her face, her supporters say.
Rico is a mother to a 21-year-old son.
Her supporters say she raised her son as a struggling single mother and that "her overarching desire is to continue to live" to be there for him.
"We would like to support and do everything we can to help her chase her dreams and accomplish her goals just as she did for us when we were young," say those whose lives have been touched by Rico.