The Rusk School staff and students are raising money to help a beloved crossing guard fighting cancer.
Sanjuana Torres is more than The Rusk School part-time crossing guard. She knows nearly every student, parent and staff member by name. They all know her, too.
"She's family,” said Valeria Hernandez, an eighth grade student. “She's everything. She was our first friend."
For 30 years and counting, she provides parents updates on their kids. Torres also makes sure students get lunch. She even, on occasion, buys staff members breakfast.
"We don't know how she's able to continue that when we know that she struggles,” said Senta Butler, a school administrator.
Torres could not afford to see a doctor in five years until last month. That is when her Gold Card from Harris County, that provides financial assistance for medical care to qualified residents, arrived years after Torres applied. It is also when doctors discovered cancer in her abdomen.
"(The) first thing that came to my mind: Why me?,” Torres said.
Cancer killed her mother and sister. So those who love Torres worry.
Her last day at work before surgery saw lots of hugs.
"I hope everything goes okay,” one student told Torres. “I'm going to miss you."
Staff members and friends set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for Torres’ medical bills and lost wages. As an hourly, part-time employee, she only gets paid when she works. Torres will not return to her job until August, she said.
"No one has ever done that for me,” Torres said about the fundraiser.
She is a single mom who struggled so much raising her five sons that a friend once suggested Torres give up two of her sons. Instead, neighbors and friends at the school helped them stay together.
That is why Torres refused to take another job. She stayed to return the favor.
"It's all worth it because my kids are going home happy,” she said. “They got to say goodbye to me."
They also plan to do anything possible to reward Torres and see miss healthy and back protecting pedestrians again.