The Gift of Kindness: Homeless Student Receives Surprise of a Lifetime

Stress – we all face it. But for Sarah Anne Berger, she says she’s learned ways to cope with mountains of stress, by taking it one spoonful at a time.

Berger and her family have faced a few challenges lately. The full-time student at North Hennepin Community College, who has an associate’s degree in communications and is now going for a second degree in human services, is homeless and takes care of her two disabled siblings. However, Affinity Plus, KARE-11, and Minnesota Computers for Schools gave her a surprise of a lifetime, something to help make life a little brighter, a little easier, and a little more manageable this academic year.

You see, Berger and her family have been homeless for the last year and a half and have been living out of a motel. Their landlord, who they had been renting from for eight years, went into foreclosure. The family now lives in one room with two double beds and her brother sleeps on the floor. Although she says living in a motel has been challenging and tough on both her and her family, she says, there’s a silver lining.  

“It’s definitely helped us in a way because we have learned to band together and support each other. I tell my brother that I’ve never forgiven so easily,” said Berger. “You’re in such a small space that you just have to learn how to love each other and forgive each other and talk to each other when there are issues and work them out.”  

However, while she cares for her siblings in a small hotel room, and takes classes online, it’s been challenging adapting to a virtual academic environment, along with having consistent computer access. Sometimes, she uses computers on campus but must wait until her Dad is done working to get a ride back to the motel. Oftentimes, she spends the whole day on campus until she can get picked up.

She wanted to make life a little easier. Berger decided to sign up for a free laptop from Minnesota Computers for Schools, which repurposes donated computers for students and school districts in need. She was on the waiting list. Until, a surprise outside of her college would leave her, and her mother, Melanie, speechless.

Affinity Plus and Minnesota Computers for Schools crashed her KARE-11 television interview and surprised her with a new laptop and gift card. Today, having a computer is essential to keep students connected to school, especially considering distance learning requirements this fall. That’s why this year, Affinity Plus, Minnesota Computers for Schools and KARE 11 teamed up to launch Tech Drive Tuesday, a statewide initiative to ensure all kids in MN had access to the technology they needed for this upcoming school year. Tech Drive Tuesday wrapped up earlier this month. Our members along with generous donors from the community donated more than 60,000 pounds of technology to the initiative and more than $8,000 in monetary gifts. Minnesota Computers for Schools repurposes or refurbishes all donations that are suitable for use by a student or school in need. Anything that could not be re-used was responsibly recycled. The refurbished equipment is then placed directly with students to help them stay connected to their academics while physical classrooms are closed.

Berger says that the gesture left her feeling grateful and blessed. She says she wasn’t expecting the computer and calls the experience ‘unbelievable.’

“You just don’t know how much an impact one little metal piece of rectangular object, a laptop, is,” said Berger. “It’s a student’s whole world. Thank you for allowing me to take that home with me.”

As for what’s next for Sarah? She says she wants to go on to pursue a PhD, start a family someday, and help as many people as she can.

Watch the full reaction video of Sarah’s surprise: