Coming from an affluent plantation family, she had access to wealth and social prestige, but she devoted her life completely to providing educational opportunity in the midst of the poverty of the North Georgia Mountains. She had the highest and rosiest ideals, but no one was ever more practical. She devised an educational program in which mountain children could pay their own way through work - work that included building the college that bears her name. She attacked poverty through self-help, giving her students self-respect as well as an education. The motto she chose for her school is, "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister." In the 1890's, Miss Berry had come back home from a young ladies" finishing school in Boston. She was spending her Sunday afternoon in a log cabin where the books and toys from her childhood were kept. While singing to herself some favorite hymns, she noticed three little boys peeking in. She drew them into the cabin by offering them some apples, and she read Bible stories to them. These children had no Sunday school or church to attend, and no public school either. They had wandered a long way over almost impassable roads from Trapp Hollow and Possum Trot. Just to see the total fascination which the Bible stories roused in them gave Miss Berry an attraction to teaching that lasted the rest of her life. She invited the three boys back the next Sunday, and they brought many more children with them. She soon began taking instruction to them, opening a Bible school in an abandoned church in Possum Trot. The children's insatiable thirst for learning, their desperate need to know more about health and hygiene and ways to earn a living, soon convinced Miss Berry that she must offer them more than religious training. Within a few years, she was operating several schools in mountain communities where public education had not yet penetrated. Soon she came to believe that these children needed a live-in school, not just a few hours of classes a week.