16 year-old Natalie Hampton from Sherman Oaks, California, has developed a new app that makes it easy to find people to sit with in the school cafeteria. “Sit With Us” is designed to eliminate the isolation that so many students face when it comes to locating a place to sit in the lunchroom.
For some students, the school cafeteria can be an intimidating place. It isn’t always welcoming, and unless you have a designated group of friends to sit with, it could easily become the worst part of your day. Natalie knows. She was inspired to create the app after she ate lunch alone for the entire year she was in seventh grade. Being excluded, or simply just not included, left her feeling vulnerable, and she often became a target for bullies.
The app allows students to designate themselves as “ambassadors,” which means that they are inviting others to join them. Ambassadors can then post “open lunch” events, alerting others seeking company that they are invited to join the ambassador’s table.
Natalie said that the reason she feels the app is necessary and effective is because it prevents kids from being publicly humiliated. “This way it’s very private,” Natalie explains. “It’s through the phone, so no one else has to know. And you know that you’re not going to be rejected once you get to the table.”
She’s using the app in her own high school, and asking fellow students and peers to take a stand against bullying. Research shows that when students—especially the “cool kids”—stand up to bullying, it has a significant impact on the student body as a whole.
Natalie says, “The real change happens when kids help kids, because an adult telling you not to bully isn’t going to stop you.”
So far there are already 40 students who have registered and pledged “sit with us” at her high school. “I’m very excited that things are already kicking off with a great start.”