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College student living in motel gets surprise gift

A young woman who takes care of her siblings in a motel now has something to help her succeed this semester.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Sarah Anne Berger has an associate's degree in communications but for a moment last Friday, she was speechless.

She and her mom visited North Hennepin Community College that day for an interview with KARE 11. It's where she's now going for a second degree, this time, in human services.

"I'm a first generation college student," Berger said. "I love learning. I love college. I want to care for people."

She already does.

"My two youngest siblings are disabled," Berger said. "I'm actually their PCA. That's a personal care attendant. I help my sister shower. My brother has grand mal seizures. I have to set him on the ground and make sure he doesn't hurt himself accidentally."

The Bergers are close. They've been through a lot.

"We're at the Super 8 Motel," Berger said. "We've been homeless for a year and a half. Our landlord, who we'd been renting from for eight years, went into foreclosure. We all live in one room."

The room has two double beds. Berger's brother sleeps on the floor.

"We make it work," she said. "We have our clothes in totes."

"It's very difficult finding housing for a family and kids with needs," her mom Melanie Berger said. 

Consistent computer access is another challenge.

"I'm taking six classes," Sarah Anne Berger said. "Four of them are completely online."

Sometimes, she uses computers on campus but must wait until her dad is done working to get a ride back to the motel.

To make both of their lives easier, Berger decided to sign up for a free laptop from Minnesota Computers for Schools.

"I'm on a waiting list," she said. "There's so much need for laptops for a lot of people."

That's when Minnesota Computers for Schools crashed the interview to surprise Berger with a the laptop. That's what made her speechless. At first, she and her mom could only cry.

"We're just so proud of you," communications manager Katie McMahon said. "We're so touched by your story. We couldn't let you wait another day."

Berger also received a check from Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, which for more than a month, has teamed up with KARE 11 to host Tech Drive Tuesdays.

"We've had members of our credit union, we've had the general public stop through our branches and donate stuff that they're not using anymore and Minnesota Computers for Schools is able to repurpose that, find a new home for that unwanted technology," said Adam Layne, senior community engagement specialist. "So this isn't us as much as it is the community."

"I'm so very grateful and just so very blessed just to see the goodness of people to help me. I mean I'm just one small student at North Hennepin and you've just given me so much," Berger said. "Thank you."

There is still time to help students in need:

September 1 from 12 – 5 p.m.

  • Cambridge (1990 2nd Ave SE)
  • Faribault (900 N.W. 4th Street)
  • Mankato (1600 Madison Avenue, Suite 101A)

Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union will be matching up to $25,000 in donations made on the Give 11 page or at any of their branches. 

RELATED: Donate school supplies to students in need

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