Brittney Swicionis and Tony Bono have a lot of pride in Southeast Missouri State University. Their love for the University stems from both their education and their personal experiences. Cape Girardeau is the place they call home now, and they make it a priority to continue to give back to the place that shaped them.

Life Changing Decision

Both Brittney and Tony were weighing other schools during their college searches. For different reasons, they both ended up choosing Southeast and changing their life direction forever. 

Tony ended up graduating from Southeast with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 2013, and then going back and graduating with a bachelor's in elementary education in 2018. While juggling the college decision, Tony was influenced by his father, who was a SEMO alumnus. 

"For whatever reason, before I even stepped foot in a dorm room, I felt home," Tony said. "This felt like the place to be."

His decision to head back to get into education was easy, especially with the support he had from his relationship. Now, Tony serves as a special education teacher in the area. 

Brittney had gotten her first two years out of the way at a community college and was ready to transfer to a four-year when she was debating SEMO. Eventually, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in health management, and then graduated again in 2019 with a master's degree in higher education administration. 

Originally, Brittney was convinced she wanted to go to Chicago to pursue her bachelor's degree. After a major ice storm in Chicago and some reflection on the cost of her education, she decided to head to SEMO. 

"You have to think about your end goal," Brittney said. "You're in a completely different stage of life than an 18-year-old. Immerse yourself in that moment, but think about the end goal and job placement."

Transferring was simple for Brittney, and she says that process was made easier by everyone at SEMO. SEMO now has a dedicated Transfer Center to help students transition into their next chapter. 

Brittney was a dancer and heavily involved on campus. 

"My success comes from the experiences I took part in," Brittney said. "It's the group that I said yes to, the service projects. As an 18-year-old, you have a blank canvas. As a transfer, it's how am I going to finish this canvas and what am I going to do to maximize my time."

Brittney is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, teaching multiple times a week in the area. She also has a genuine love for non-profit work.

"Just because you have a certain degree path you were in doesn't mean you should omit certain career choices," Brittney states. "You just never know where you're going to end up in the end or what might be required from you in the future."

The pair eventually decided to venture out in Cape Girardeau, buying Board and Brush in September of 2020. It was already an established business, and the pair decided to make it their own. In this small business venture in Cape Girardeau, they make sure their college alma mater is highlighted regularly. 

 "We love SEMO," Brittney said. "We love it a lot."

Even though the pair weren't sure when they started their college searches, they found careers at SEMO and a home in Cape Girardeau that they continue to build.

Brittney and Tony's Education Journey

Home at SEMO

Brittney and Tony both found careers during their time at SEMO in different ways. Check out the majors they were a part of during their time at school and how they've turned those into successful careers.

More Than Education

Brittney and Tony credit a lot in their lives to their time at SEMO. They also have another thing to celebrate: their marriage and life together. 

The two matched on a dating application and first met in-person at a SEMO Homecoming. Brittney was a dancer and running all over the place, but they managed to snap a photo that is still a favorite memory for the pair. 

They started dating soon after and have been together ever since. Even when Tony moved to Saint Louis to start working after graduation, he still was regularly in Cape Girardeau to see Brittney. 

"I had so many things going on in a great way," Brittney recalled about her time at SEMO. "It was like the cherry on top, finding someone who was very supportive in everything that I did here and who was coming down almost every other weekend to see me attend things. We would go do things locally together, and it really just evolved into what our relationship is today."

And that relationship evolved, eventually forming a marriage.  In fact, Tony proposed to Brittney in the spot they head to every Homecoming, cementing the spot in their memories for life. 

The pair makes sure that every single year, they attend Homecoming. If there's any other special occasion that same day they will politely decline and go back to where they first met. 

"There's a lot of great people in this community with similar love stories," Brittney said. "They found their person here. We just try to surround ourselves with those good people, too."

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