The Learning Zone Model, coined by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, demonstrates the three different learning zones that humans may exist in throughout their lives: the comfort zone, the learning zone, and the panic zone. The comfort zone is where humans live on a day-to-day basis, where they are able to complete daily tasks with confidence. The learning zone stretches just beyond the comfort zone, allowing people to be curious, take risks, learn, and develop new skills. Ideally, the learning zone is the sweet spot where humans and especially students, want to be. The panic zone is where people are overwhelmed by new information and demands that they may be unable to cope with.
In the three-day development experience at The Hun School known as the MLK Leadership Summit, students participate in a robust program ranging from small group discussions to workshops and activities designed to push students just outside of their comfort zones and into their learning zones. The MLK Summit is designed to develop personal leadership skills within a multicultural context. Much like the transformational leader that Martin Luther King Jr. is known to be, students who attend the MLK Summit are encouraged to be empathetic, lifelong students, who are comfortable speaking up, even when it isn’t convenient.
Gabby Ruiz-Mitchell ’25 is a returning student to the MLK Summit, this time as a facilitator. She explains that although being a facilitator was a big jump out of her comfort zone, the summit allowed her to find her footing and further develop her leadership abilities.
“I felt prepared to be a facilitator but I wasn’t expecting to learn even more than I had the year before as a participating student,” she said. “I continuously learn more and more about how to promote diversity and inclusion here at Hun. The summit taught me what I can do in the Hun community to promote a peaceful path to open-mindedness.”
Another pillar of this year’s summit was Brené Brown’s seven elements of trust: boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, non judgment, and generosity, which she refers to as B.R.A.V.I.N.G. To begin the summit, students and facilitators alike each picked one element of trust that they needed from their peers. Then group members picked two elements that they personally wanted to work on throughout the summit. In both their core groups and larger group discussions B.R.A.V.I.N.G played a pivotal role in breaking down walls and allowing space for important conversations regarding ability, identity, race, and gender.
Nethra Velanki ’24 reflects on the MLK summit as an opportunity that allowed her to grow as a listener, a leader, and a person.
“The summit allowed me to truly be myself and be vulnerable enough to share things that I hadn’t even thought of sharing before,” she said. “Our core groups gave me a safe space to share thoughts without feeling judged. Being able to share freely made me feel like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I’m really glad I attended the summit and I’m so lucky to have created a bond with a group of people that I otherwise may not have talked to.”