All too often we hear tales of adolescents and teenagers misusing social media. Whether it be illicit content, bullying, or something worse, the thought of my children someday entering into the online world feels daunting, even terrifying. Every once in a while, though, something genuinely altruistic and hopeful comes to our attention. This is where sixteen-year-old highschool student Natalie Hampton comes in.
Natalie is the creator of Sit With Us, an app designed to make sure that no student ever has to sit alone in the cafeteria. Natalie, herself, was ostracized, bullied, and even physically assaulted by her classmates at an all-girl’s private school she previously attended in Los Angeles, California. She tells Audie Cornish, host of NPR’s All Things Considered, “When you walk into the lunchroom and you see all the tables of everyone sitting there and you know that going up to them would only end in rejection, you feel extremely alone and extremely isolated, and your stomach drops.”
Although Natalie was able to switch schools the following year, and did thankfully find a group of friends at her new school, she couldn’t forget how it felt to eat lunch alone every single day. “Well, I felt that if I was thriving in a new school but didn’t do anything about the people who feel like this every single day, then I’m just as bad as the people who watched me eat alone,” She shares. Thus, Sit With Us was born.
The way it works is that kids can download the app on their smartphones and find a Sit With Us club at their school. The app allows willing students to sign up as ambassadors, which means they can volunteer to keep an open seat at their table for users to find them and sit down for lunch– and hopefully find new friends. When students become ambassadors, they pledge to be inclusive and kind to whoever asks to sit with them.
It may seem like a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of a large school, but Natalie doesn’t think so. She tells The Washington Post, “…once you get people in the mind-set, it starts to change the way students think about each other. It makes a huge difference in how they treat each other.”
All I can hope is that I am raising little Natalie Hamptons, who care about the loneliness of others; and that, if my children ever feel alone, they find another Natalie Hampton, as well. Bravo to this young woman who set out to create something that, “…addresses bullying, but in a positive way.” Your resilience is an encouraging and beautiful thing to behold, Natalie!
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.