Northwest Suburban High School District 214 is mourning the loss of longtime social worker Marilyn Medina-Perez, who died Wednesday morning after a six-month battle with cancer.
Colleagues said Medina-Perez, 43, was loved by many in the district.
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"(Medina-Perez) was someone who positively impacted everyone she touched," said Tom Scotese, assistant principal of student services at Wheeling High School. "I feel truly blessed that 'Mari' was a part of my life. Through her interactions, she made her students and colleagues aspire to be better people."
Medina-Perez had been with the district for 19 years and worked as a social worker at Wheeling High School before moving to the Vanguard School in recent years. She was named the Illinois School Social Worker of the Year in 2010, and received her doctorate from the Institute for Clinical Social Work in 2012.
According to a Give Forward fundraising website started by Medina-Perez's family, she was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in late June on the same day she gave birth to twin sons. She underwent several surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, but an update on the site over the weekend said she was not doing well.
Scotese called Medina-Perez an inspiration. When she first told him of her cancer diagnosis, she promised to "fight with everything she had."
"She led by example and was always thinking of others. I can honestly say that she was one of the most genuine and kind people I have ever met in my life," he said. "She was passionate about her work, her family and friends."
Other colleagues remembered how Medina-Perez dedicated her life to helping people around her.
"Marilyn gave so much to so many -- helping students get through school, helping staff members through personal turbulence, and helping us all become better, more understanding individuals," said Andrea Mugler, school psychologist at Wheeling High School. "Working in student services, we are in the business of helping others. Her title was school social worker, but she was so much more. (She) was a mentor -- my mentor -- and she will be deeply missed."
Information on funeral services was not yet available.