This guest Q&A is with Anthony Ianni, a public speaker and autism self-advocate. He’s one of the first people with autism to ever play Division I Basketball. As a fellow anti-bullying activist who speaks on the topic of bullying prevention, I wanted to spotlight his journey for October which is National Bullying Prevention Month. The Relentless Tour with Anthony Ianni is a first of its kind grass roots initiative designed to help eradicate bullying across the state of Michigan. You can learn more about his Relentless Tour that started in October of 2013 here

Who came up with the idea behind the Relentless Tour? 

The idea was proposed by a PR team that I worked with during my time with Autism Alliance of Michigan 9 years ago. The original idea was to visit all 659 Middle Schools in the state of Michigan, but once we officially launched it I got bombarded with emails and phone calls from high schools, elementary schools and private/charter schools who wanted the Tour to come to their schools. So we decided to do all schools instead of just the middle schools and I can honestly say it was a super smart decision that was made.

How did the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) end up getting involved?

MDCR did a lot of the Press Releases for the tour and they also did some outreach for the tour early on, but they eventually hired me as a full time employee for the Department in March of 2015 to bring and run the Relentless Tour as part of their mission for Anti-Bullying.

Did it take a while for the Relentless Tour to come to fruition? 

It really didn’t take long for it to come to fruition mainly because I had started my speaking career a year before the tour was even talked about. So a lot of people in Michigan knew that I was out there presenting on Anti-Bullying and Autism. But to get the tour started we needed support from others at Autism Alliance and to also get sponsors for the tour as well. We ended up getting some sponsors for the tour for the 2013-2014 school year, but after that year we realized that we didn’t need the sponsors for the following year because we were in such high demand in the state and making its way across the country. There were some who doubted the tour and that it wouldn’t have much success, but like my life story, this tour has become one of the most successful initiatives in the State and is making even more noise around the country.

How many schools, camps and students have seen you speak as part of the tour for free?

I don’t know exactly how many presentations that I have done for free, but we’ve always done summer camp presentations for free and during the school year if I present at a school in Michigan that 40% or more free/reduced lunch then the presentation is also free. We started doing this just before the start of the 2016-2017 school year and it’s been a big hit because every school needs to hear a message that the Tour provides.

Editor’s note: I had the esteemed privilege of doing a Q&A with Anthony to discuss his journey growing up with autism several years ago which you can read here. He’s a great guy who truly cares about our community. – Kerry Magro

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