Natalie Hampton spent sixth and seventh grade dreading lunchtime. “I would walk into the cafeteria and see all of the tables and know that if I tried to join any of them, they would block a seat or say it was taken,” the high school junior from L.A.’s Sherman Oaks neighborhood tells Us Weekly. “It’s really embarrassing to sit by yourself in front of the entire school. There are so many feelings of rejection and isolation that go along with sitting alone.”
Though Hampton has since transferred from the private all-girls academy, she has never forgotten those lonesome lunches. Which is why the once-bullied 16-year-old created Sit With Us, a free app that ensures no kid ever has to eat alone.
“If you sign up and take a pledge to become an ambassador, it means you will accept anyone who tries to join your table,” explains Hampton. “So if a student doesn’t know who to sit with, they can log onto the app and see every open lunch table at their school and choose which one they want to join.”
Each user, when making a profile, enters their school name and address, and the app then sorts users by school. Since launching on September 9, Sit With Us has had more than 3,300 downloads.
“Lunch might seem really small, but I think these are the small steps that make a school more inclusive,” Hampton told The Washington Post. “It doesn’t seem like you’re asking that much, but 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.”
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