A former victim of intense bullying has launched an app that strives to ensure kids have someone to sit with during their lunchtime. The app titled Sit With Us attempts to unite kids at school who often sit alone at lunch and are targeted by mean kids.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie Hampton has launched an app that tries to ensure every child in school has someone to eat with. While the concept may appear quite simplistic, it is aimed at solving one of the most dreaded issues at schools: bullying. The California girl launched the app on September 9, “to help students find kindness, and welcoming groups with whom to eat in school lunchrooms across the country.”
Hampton’s app was born from a nightmarish experience she had to endure at an all-girls private school in Los Angeles. Cast out by other students, she felt strongly ostracized. Abandoned, even by her classmates, Hampton was forced to eat lunch all alone every day. Unfortunately, her ordeal didn’t end at abandonment from her peers. The “mean girls” categorically excluded her from all the social events, called her names and even physically assaulted her. She was constantly jeered at and called ugly. The girls insulted her any chance they got and told her she would never have any friends. Hampton claims the girls even shoved her into a locker and threatened to kill her if she talked. Natalie described her experience.
“I was a shell of the person I was. When I walked into a classroom, I was planning an escape route. The experience made me feel lonely and vulnerable. The bullying caused nightmares, stress and depression.”
Terrified of retaliation, the girl kept mum and started resenting going to school. Her parents claim that she stopped eating and had trouble sleeping. The anxiety forced her parents to admit her into a hospital. After Natalie switched schools, all her problems magically disappeared. Amidst loving peers, she now has a group of close friends and extracurricular activities.
However, she never forgot about the ordeal and decided to offer a way for bullying victims to unite and have a safe ecosystem that was completely devoid of judgement. She set out to make a simple app that allowed students to post any vacant seats or seek out places among other students where they could eat their lunch peacefully.
“Sit With Us was born because I am committed to making sure that other kids don’t suffer as I did. I believe that seemingly small, incremental changes in the overall dynamic of a school community can bring about change, so that everyone feels welcome and included.”
The app is comprised of two sections. Students can sign up as “ambassadors” and post about any open seats at their lunch table. The second group is comprised of students who are looking for a place to sit. These students can find the ambassador’s table and know they are already welcome to join. Ambassadors have to pledge they will be kind and welcoming to whoever comes to sit with them.
Natalie chose to begin with lunchtime because it was the simplest and most effective occasion for a group of students to come together.
“Lunch might seem really small, but I think these are the small steps that make a school more inclusive. It doesn’t seem like you’re asking that much, but once you get people in the mindset, it starts to change the way students think about each other. It makes a huge difference in how they treat each other.”
Bullying is a serious problem across America. In fact the White House created an initiative to address it. While numbers are sketchy, because many victims do not come forward, recent reports indicate about 25 percent of students are bullied in any given school year. However, more than two-thirds of the victims choose to remain silent.
Natalie hopes her app will offer a constructive platform for the victims and they can find strength in a protective group.
[Featured Image by Debbi Morello/Getty Images]