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2023 Beau and Abe Merfish No Place for Hate® Youth Summit Brings Students Together to Learn About and Celebrate Neurodiversity

  • November 9, 2023

On November 2, more than 260 students from 11 Houston-area No Place for Hate® schools met at the flagship location of the Houston Public Library in downtown Houston to celebrate neurodiversity at ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League’s) 2023 Beau and Abe Merfish No Place for Hate® Youth Summit. 

This year’s Summit, entitled “Welcoming Differences,” focused on middle school students and educators, and was designed to elevate the importance of welcoming and accepting diverse learning styles. 

It began with keynote speaker Anthony Ianni, one of the most sought-after autism advocates in the United States.  At age 4, Ianni was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD).  He not only overcame this disorder, along with attacks by bullies and other personal challenges, he graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and became the first known athlete with autism to play Big 10 basketball.   

Ianni, who has devoted his life and career to helping those who face similar challenges, told the students “What is your why in life? Whatever your why is, use it to the fullest of its ability and go out and get your dreams. You have to go get them, because at the end of the day we don’t dream our lives, at the end of the day….WE LIVE THEM!”

Following the keynote address, students and educators broke into groups where they participated in experiential, hands-on activities designed to provide them with the knowledge, awareness and skills to respond to name-calling and bullying as well as an understanding of how to create safe and respectful environments in their schools. 

“I am pleased to say this year’s Beau and Abe Merfish No Place for Hate® Youth Summit was a great success,” said ADL Southwest Education Director Dr. Chantel L. Henderson.  “Students and educators alike examined their backgrounds and biases and learned about accepting and celebrating diverse learning styles. They also came up with plans to counter bullying and promote respect. We’ve never focused on neurodiversity at the Summit before, and it’s so important for students and educators to talk about these types of learning differences and how understanding them can lead to the best learning environment.” 

Summit sponsors included the Beau and Abe Merfish Education Endowment Fund, Marathon Oil, H-E-B, the Houston Public Library, and We Rock the Spectrum® Bellaire Kids Gym for All Kids. 

For more information on ADL’s No Place for Hate program, go to