Tony Ary, a native of Thayer, Mo., chose to attend Missouri State University-West Plains starting in the fall of 2010 because it was a close-to-home option that allowed him to transition from high school to college gradually, and, over time, he found himself not just adapting but flourishing, eventually taking on several leadership roles on campus, including president of Student Government Association (SGA) and also as a Student Ambassador.
Ary now works as program director at the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield, Mo. He lives in Springfield with his wife, Kristi, and daughters Jaleigh, 3, and Karaline, 1.
"SGA allowed me to think through situations critically and find new ways to improve the campus," Ary said. "The Ambassador program provided me with a 'campus family' that I grew very close to, which showed me the vision I have for workplace culture at my current organization. It also allowed me to learn about myself as a person and encourage other students to believe they can achieve higher education."
Making an Impact
Looking back on his early days as a student, Ary said, "When I first enrolled at Missouri State-West Plains I was a nervous young man. I was unsure of the experience I would have. Upon the decision to jump into the experience headfirst and make the most that I could, I found that Missouri State-West Plains had a major impact on what I am today. It gave me a confidence that I did not ever have academically and as a person, motivation to become successful, and a group of people I can count on and seek advice from for the rest of my life.
"The West Plains campus helped me accomplish my goals by first helping me set the right goals," he added. "I found that the 'why' is more important than the 'what.' Learning why you want to make a difference gives a whole new purpose to what is accomplished. Missouri State-West Plains gave me a foundation to move on to a purpose that is much bigger than personal gain, but rather to find ways to have a positive impact on the world every day."
Ary said his job helps him to make that impact, allowing him to work with and serve an average of 230 children per day.
"We provide a place the kids love coming to and a relief for parents trying to find child care," he said, adding that he loves waking up to his job every morning. "The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is an organization that I am very passionate about. In three years, I have accepted two major promotions and was voted vice chair of the Professional Association-SOMO Chapter. I credit that a lot to the work ethic, skills and confidence that I found at Missouri State-West Plains."
Ary calls his decision to attend Missouri State-West Plains the pivotal choice of his life. "Had I chosen to go anywhere else, I am certain that I would not be where I am today. I have a beautiful wife who I met at Missouri State-West Plains. I have two beautiful daughters because of Missouri State-West Plains. I learned that 'I can' at Missouri State-West Plains through academics, as SGA president and through the Ambassador program. I was given opportunities that I would not have received elsewhere. Missouri State-West Plains will always be a big passion of mine," he said.
He started work on his bachelor's degree in 2013 on the West Plains campus through the Missouri State Outreach program, which helped him continue his education without having to take time off and provided him an easy transition into classes on the Springfield campus.
Ary offered a piece of advice for current and future students. "Challenge yourself, academically and socially. Find a way to make an impact. When you jump into your lifelong career, you don't aspire to walk into work, sit in a chair and return back home when you are released. I would bet that you would want to find a career to be happy to wake up to, and to go into work with the mindset to make a difference in the organization that you are working for. The best way to form that mindset for your career is now. You can learn a lot about yourself right now. Don't wait until you have a career to prepare for it. Career preparation is more than academics. It's learning about who you are as a person, interacting with those around you and becoming a part of something much bigger than yourself."