School can be stressful for any kid, at times. For those who have been bullied, left out, embarrassed by their peers or are simply shy, “stressful” is an understatement – school can be downright terrifying. That’s why one teenager out of Sherman Oaks, CA decided it was time to take some drastic steps toward inclusion with the help of her new app.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie Hampton was no stranger to feeling excluded, having spent seventh grade eating alone at lunch every day while fearing the resident bullies who sometimes threatened and humiliated her. She created the app “Sit With Us,” available for download on the iTunes app store, as a way to help others going through similar experiences – and it all starts at lunchtime.
The app allows kids to privately make lunchtime arrangements with fellow users, in order to avoid the uncomfortable and sometimes scary situation of walking into the cafeteria and heading straight for an empty table. With the app, kids can arrange their table in advance and know that they’ll be welcomed openly when they sit down for lunch.
Users can also designate themselves as “ambassadors” upon logging in for the first time – an option that allows them to create “open lunch” events at specified tables. In other words, these tables are open for anyone to come and sit at, making them a safe space for those fearing rejection and isolation. Users can also request to join tables through the app rather than face potential dismissal upon arrival at a lunch table in person.
While Hampton now has many friends and no longer deals with the daily stress of being excluded or bullied herself, Sit With Us is meant to help those who are still on the outs. But for the app to truly be effective, there needs to be people using it – and that’s why ambassadors are key. They might be kids who are popular, well-adjusted with a group of friends or are just straight-up fearless and want to make a positive impact in their school cafeteria. Regardless, the more users, the better.
Although the app just launched on September 9, Hampton is already feeling optimistic about the results. “People are already posting open lunches at my school,” she told NPR. “I’m very excited that things are already kicking off with a great start.”