The Dangers of the Comfort Zone

26 September 2018

Lysea Munoz (C17) won the Education and Social Work Award for ProjectAko, which aims to connect students and teachers to professionals in various industries through project-based learning opportunities. Here she discusses her motivations and learnings. 

When I ask my students what they want to do when they leave high school, many say they don’t know. Others have firm directions, their route decided, their navigation mapped. Probing this further is interesting. When I was in high school, I said I wanted to go to University. But if I was asked why, I probably would’ve also shrugged. The reality is that I was making a decision based on what I was seeing around me, and I see my students doing the same thing. We all live in our own bubbles. Look around. What do most of your friends and family do? Chances are that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. But every so often, an opportunity comes around that pushes your bubble out a bit further. It might be an experience at school, a new job or travelling. For me, it was joining Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu.

Working at Tamaki College has been an education for me. As I try to educate my students about Maths, they are educating me about their culture, their aspirations and their lives. My experience in the classroom has been one that has been defined by Ako (the reciprocal nature of teaching and learning), as through teaching, I have learned so much.

Recently, a friend and I launched an initiative called ProjectAko. Our aim is to build a community of continuous learners and engage students in industries that they may have never considered being a part of. We are both engineers and we want to design an online platform and utilise new technologies to open up experiences to a wider range of people. Many people have passions and projects that they want to share with others, and we hope to break down silos in society by connecting people with new networks and opportunities, pushing all of our bubbles out.

A few months ago, we took the opportunity to enter the University's Velocity challenge for entrepreneurship, and took away a prize for innovation in the education sector. But more than the $1000 prize money, we walked away with new connections and support to help us to develop our idea. My friend and I have no experience in starting up or running a business, but we have the opportunity to learn and explore something new which is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Doing something different that is out of your comfort zone can be a challenge. But if it was easy, where is the fun in that? The difficulties we persevere through helps us to grow as individuals and the strength we build can then be returned to our communities. So, don’t be afraid to take on the unexpected opportunities, push your bubble out, and set out on a path that is uniquely you.

If you’d like to know more, show support or just connect with ProjectAko, please contact Lysea (