Natalie Hampton developed the idea for the Sit With Us app, which launched Sept. 9, to help students find kindness and welcoming groups with whom to eat in school lunchrooms across the country.
After experiencing lonely lunches in middle school, 16-year-old Natalie Hampton from Sherman Oaks, California designed an app called Sit With Us to make cafeterias more inclusive while also taking away the fear of rejection.
The premise of the app is simple: connecting those looking for somewhere to sit at lunch with people who have room at their table to share. Because the entire premise of the app is based on being inclusive, the possibility of rejection is taken away.
Users interested in inviting people to sit with them can host an event and specify the day, time, and location. To let potential lunch buddies know who they will be sitting with, these “ambassadors” of the app can add a picture and write a description to introduce themselves to others and possibly list a few interests that might spark some lunchtime conversation.
Then, those who are looking for a place to sit can see the event and choose to join, with the assurance that they will be welcomed once they get to the table.
Hampton says on the Sit With Us website that being bullied in 7th grade was made worse by the fact that she ate lunch alone, which gave the other kids something else to taunt her with. This experience made her take action for others.
“After I changed schools, whenever I saw someone eating lunch alone, I would always invite the person to join the group,” she wrote. “Each time, the person’s face would light up, and the look of relief would wash over the person’s face. ”
According to StopBullying.gov, more than 1 in 4 school-age children report having been bullied. Being bullied has a number of negative effects like depression, anxiety, stress-related health problems, and suffering grades. Depending on the severity and duration, some of these can last years.
Using an app to invite others to lunch is a small gesture with the potential for a massive reward. Though it has only been available for download for a couple weeks, there is an incredible opportunity for this to change lives.
Jean G. Thomas