Big Ten Basketball Player Shares Anti-bullying Message
When Anthony Ianni was four years old, he was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and his parents told him he would “barely graduate” from high school. Mr. Ianni did graduate from high school and went on to become the first known person with an autism diagnosis to play Division I college basketball. As a member of the Michigan State basketball team, he was on the 2010 and 2012 Big Ten Champion and Tournament Championship teams and the 2010 Final Four team.
Today, Mr. Ianni travels the nation as part of his “Relentless Tour” sharing his life experiences — in particular his childhood memories of being bullied for being “different.” As part of National Bullying Prevention Month, Weston Elementary Principal Sara Trimner arranged for Mr. Ianni to visit Weston Elementary, Rothschild Elementary and the D.C. Everest Middle School. At each of the schools, Mr. Ianni relayed his personal stories: being“tricked” by friends he had trusted and bullied for his for his “odd” behavior and his height — in sixth grade, he was already 6 feet tall. He shared a key turning point in his life when rather than physically confronting one of the most persistent bullies, he decided to do things “his way” by defeating his bullies on the basketball court. His message to students: change the world with your own unique talents and be the agent of positive change in the world.
According to Principal Trimner, “Mr. Ianni left our students with a powerful message about overcoming obstacles, standing up to bullies, and living your dream. He is a great example of perseverance and growth mindset for our students." Fifth grader Mason Randall agrees. "He taught us to always believe in yourself and do what you want to do. I liked it because it teaches other kids not to bully so we can have a bully-free zone."