TEDxRedmond, the event I'm organizing with fellow youth (for the second year), is all about learning, inspiring, and doing good, from the unique perspective of young people. In response to the question, "Why attend TEDxRedmond?" we've heard amazing responses from attendees, like this from an 11-year-old: "I really, really enjoyed TEDxRedmond last year.  I loved that everyone there is trying to make the world a better place. Since last year I have been very busy trying to do the same.  I have been volunteering my time with the Riverview Youth Council,  I am the youngest in the group, most of them are in High School and I'm 11.  We work on teen suicide prevention, preventing tobacco use, and other healthy choices.  I also have been volunteering to serve food at tent city and helping the local women's shelter and sponsoring people on Kiva.  But the biggest thing I have been working on is anti-bullying.  I am working to help create a safe and bully free school. My dream is to be standing on a stage one day at TED talking about how I made a difference and inspiring someone like me to do the same."
One 13-year-old said: "I think of myself as a 'learner.' I constantly ponder over issues that affect my world and, thereby, me. TEDxRedmond is the perfect forum for young learners like myself. I wish to share in the intellect, the views, and the questioning spirit that makes TED so significant to our generation and beyond. I would like to be a part of the larger objective of creating an aware and accountable epoch in our world."

School districts presumably work every day to try to get students thinking of themselves as learners, getting young people to start grassroots change against negative behaviors like drug abuse and bullying, etc. Yet I somehow doubt that our school district (which will remain unnamed) has heard responses like these at Spirit Day or the school dance (I have a feeling that, in a school situation, you'd get laughed at for even saying 'creating an aware and accountable epoch in our world,' as this 13-year-old did), but dances, Spirit Days, and football games, are among the officially school district approved events, held on school district facilities without a problem. TEDxRedmond, on the other hand, is not.

Why do I care so much? Well, as one of the largest performing arts centers in Redmond (where we hope to host TEDxRedmond) is owned by this school district, we had to apply to use it. As the majority of our youth organizing committee comes from this school district, I thought it made perfect sense that we could rent the building without paying upwards of 2000 dollars, since, with our students mainly coming from this SD, it would be a school district-related event.

You'd think the school district would jump at the chance to host a non-partisan gathering of hundreds of highly motivated youth discussing grassroots change, doing good for the world, education, the environment, charity, etc. As I've unfortunately learned, it's not nearly so easy. In response to the group letter we sent from all the members of our committee who attend school in this district, we were told that the performing arts center was not designed for a "group of students" to use.

It makes you wonder who schools were designed for in the first place.