Sometimes, a single spark can start the biggest fire.

For the past few years, Northern State University has been sending up flares. A new addition to the Barnett Center here, a new greenhouse there, and a new resident hall here.

Then talk of more new dorms, more changes and then a $25 million regional science center brightened a horizon that looked as if it couldn't get more beautiful. That campus-changing center is scheduled to greet Northern students in fall 2019.

Now, Northern seems ready to ignite — again — in the best way possible. And not only will a state university campus shine for decades to come, with it comes an opportunity for our community to play off of Northern's successes.

This explosion of good news from Northern recently continued in the form a $5 million commitment by the health-care provider Sanford to fund scholarships and endowments.

That was a great day for Northern. And our hometown university seems to be on a hot streak of having a lot of them this fall.

Like on Nov. 18 when Northern and the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired kicked off a $45 million capital campaign. Exciting news to be sure, especially considering that Northern also announced that $25 million has already pledged.

Thank you to those who have donated. And for those who still want to, contributions can be made at educational-impact.com.

The money will be used for:

  • $6.3 million: A new soccer field and football practice field on the swath of land behind Jerde Hall. The facility will include a pavilion featuring restrooms, locker rooms and bleachers.
  • $13.7 million: A new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It will be built where Jerde Hall dormitory currently stands.

One exciting thing about the new school will be that it will have two stories with an elevator and stairs. Currently, students at the school for the blind have to go off campus to practice those skills.

  • $25 million: The new school for the blind would open up a 10-acre parcel south of Northern's campus for a sports complex featuring a football stadium and softball field, the price of which has not been announced. But the remaining funds the school is raising total about $25 million.

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We like that all these projects are under one campaign. It prevents fundraisers from going back again and again to the same people.

Plus, the fact that more than half of the needed funds have already been pledged also raises confidence that the goal will be reached in a reasonable timeline.

Once the campaign is complete, Northern will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade, according to university officials.

By 2022, the university will have the look of a new campus.

The iron has never been so hot. The time for the rest of this community to strike is now. Aberdeen needs to be having discussions on the effects of Northern's changes — and the other changes like the new soybean plant.

Community-changing stuff is happening right before our eyes. We need to make sure we are ready for these changes and plan how we can leverage them to the fullest extent.

This feels like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity. We need to act accordingly.

— Aberdeen American News

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