Ben Reifel Middle School groundbreaking

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Construction has officially started on the newest school in Sioux Falls, Ben Reifel Middle School.

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the school today.

It is the second groundbreaking ceremony for a new school in the city this summer.

Multiple descendants from Ben Reifel's family were at the ceremony and were all smiles as they shared the legacy he left behind.

"He was a tremendous South Dakotan, a great American, and a great Lakotan. When you put all those things together... to have that name attached to one of our middle schools, what a tremendous symbol for our city and for our state," Sioux Falls School District Superintendent, Dr. Brian Maher, said.

Ben Reifel was the first Native American to serve in the United States Congress, he was elected to five consecutive terms.

"He was bipartisan, he would cross the aisle, his whole idea was, let's get something done properly," nephew of Ben Reifel, Lynn Phelps, said.

But, his political career came many years after his humble beginnings.

Born to a man of German descent, William Reifel, and a Native American woman, Lucy Burning-Breast, Ben Reifel grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

Education was one of his top priorities, and eventually what got him away from the reservation, but he needed a little motivation to get him to that point.

"He almost didn't do 7th and 8th grade, and it was the encouragement of a teacher that got him through those years," granddaughter of Ben Reifel, Valerie Cox said.

Now the hope is that a school bearing his name could have the same impact on students that education had on him.

"Ben Reifel Middle School will have the same aged kids, and some will struggle and some will wish they weren't there. We're just hoping that the hallways will be full of teachers who encourage them, and they will walk out and go to high school and beyond," said Cox.