Natalie Hampton, a senior in Los Angeles, was bullied and ate alone every day. After she transferred schools, she found teachers and other students who wanted to make sure no one ate alone. Her “Sit with Us” apps and clubs are sweeping the US and other countries as kids use social media to find other kids and stand against bullying.
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Sit With Us App: How Kids are Fighting Bullying One Lunch Table at a Time
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e252
Date: February 13, 2018
Vicki: Today we have with us Natalie Hampton @nobodyeatsalone , a 17-year-old who is changing the world. She’s not wasting those many days at the lunch table she’s been alone, but she’s using it to help others who are struggling.
She was recently named one of “25 Women Changing the World” by People Magazine and has won lots of other recognition with her “Sit With Us” app.
So, now, Natalie, what have you experienced that led to the creation of this app?
Natalie: Well, it wasn’t exactly one experience. It was kind of over the course of two years.
I was in a school community where I being really badly bullied, and I was physically attacked four separate times. I was verbally bullied, and on top of that I ate lunch alone every day. It was so embarrassing and isolating, that experience of sitting alone.
The experience of sitting alone was so embarrassing and isolating
So once I was able to transfer to a school in a much nicer community, that experience really stuck with me. I started inviting kids over to my table that I saw sitting alone, and they became my closest friends.
I realized how that small act of kindness did so much for both of us, and so that’s why I really wanted to do something about it.
Vicki: So what does your app do?
Natalie: It’s called Sit With Us and it’s a free lunch planning app. Basically, it helps kids find allies in their schools.
The Sit With Us app helps kids find allies in their schools
So you sign up, like any social media site. You create a profile page, add a list of interests and bio and add friends. From there, if you choose to be an ambassador — which means you want to add on the anti-bullying aspect — you sign a pledge saying that anyone who tries to join your table will be welcome.
From there, you plan lunches. So you say, “My name is (this). I’m sitting (here) at (this time), and then that’s viewable to anyone in your school.
So if you’re a kid who is bullied or lonely, you open the app, you sign up with your school, and you’re given a full list of all the tables where you could join and you would be welcomed.
Vicki: Wow! How many ambassadors do you have?
Natalie: Well, we have over 100,000 users, and we’re in eight different countries. We’re continuing to spread every day.
Over 100,000 users in eight different countries — and spreading!
Vicki: So have all of those kids signed up to be an ambassador? Or how many have said, “If you want to sit at my table, you are welcome”?
Natalie: We don’t have the exact numbers on ambassadors, but if you go through and look at the app, there is an overwhelming amount of ambassadors — which is not something I expected at all. I thought that this would just be a lunch planning app for kids, but there are so many out there who really want to make a change and want to help stop bullying.
Vicki: So think about the stories and the emails that you are getting from people. What’s one that really touches you? (And of course, you don’t have to say their name.) But is there one that stands out that really reminds you of, “This is why I’m doing this.”
Natalie: Yeah. So I’m a high school senior. Classes are crazy, and there are college applications and everything, on top of having a full-time job and traveling can be really tough.
But whenever we get messages through our social media channels, it really reminds me that what I’m doing is really rewarding. It makes it all worth it.
Personal feedback from a user of the app
One of those that I got is from a girl who lives in Texas. She was just starting at a new gigantic public school.
Her mom saw an article for, “Sit With Us,” and printed it out and handed it to her. She was really confused because she thought she was the new girl. Why would she be the one being the ambassador?
But she decided to try it anyway, brought it to her school, and within the first week she had a huge group of friends that she met through the app.
She has gone on to create a Sit With Us Club. So now she’s a club leader, and she has a leadership position at her new school.
She’s loving her classes, and she has a whole friend group that she met through it as well. So I think that’s really what we were going for, is to help kids find allies in their school.
Vicki: Oh, I love that!
Is that just… Think about it…
Natalie, instead of just taking that experience you had, internalizing it, and getting bitter — you’re actually helping kids who have the same problem — around the world!
How does that feel?
Natalie: Well, I felt like if I didn’t do anything to speak out against bullying, I was just as bad as all the people who saw me being attacked and said nothing.
If I hadn’t done anything to speak out against bullying, I was just as bad as all the people who saw me being attacked and said nothing
It was something that was so important to me and affected me so greatly that I couldn’t just sit there and not do anything.
It was really something that I felt that I had to do. And I thought, with all this work, even if I only help one person, then it will have been worth it.
Vicki: So, Natalie, I’m a teacher, and you’re talking to teachers.
What can teachers do to help?
I know, you know, sometimes in bullying, teachers can make things worse. But that’s still no excuse.
You know, if I see it, I’m going to deal with it. I’m going to address it and talk to the kid who’s sitting alone and see what I can do to address it.
But what’s your word to teachers like me?
Natalie: At my old school, pretty much my only ally and friend was my visual art teacher.
We all had to sit in one cohesive area, and so when you’re sitting alone, it was incredibly embarrassing because you were kind of labeled as the outcast.
The only person I had to talk to was my art teacher. And she would leave her classroom unlocked for me during the day so that I could go in there and sit by myself. I didn’t have to see everyone else.
And while that’s not a solution, she was the only one who really saw me sitting alone and would reach out and talk to me.
What can teachers do to help?
So being aware is the first step in anything.
She really saved me from so much suffering just by reaching out in the littlest way that she could.
And then, on top of that, I think what’s really important is to inspire the students. I thought that what I’m doing now would be completely impossible. But with the guidance of my teachers, and them believing in me, it’s really helped me go far.
I really think that students have so much power that they just need the adults around them to tell them that.
So as a teacher, if you can be supportive and help them reach their dreams that they want to do — whatever project they may be thinking of — it’s going to be incredible.
Vicki: So Natalie, do you have any teachers that are working with you now that you want to give a shout-out to or thank?
Natalie: YES! Of course, my history teacher, who is my absolute favorite teacher is our club sponsor, and he’s helping us run the club at my school. We really couldn’t do without him. So shout out to “Teddy.” (laughs) He’s my favorite teachers, and I’m in his government class right now, and so there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
Vicki: So how has he helped you in inspiring you to pursue this?
Natalie: Well, when I came up with the idea, I was 15 and had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to code and somehow wanted to create a global app.
At first, it was really my parents that helped me run with it.
Then on top of that, it was my teachers. I talked to them and said, “Would you be interested in helping me do this?”
So we started our first club at my own school, and once it grew big enough there, we spread to other schools. It really started with that foundation at my school that helped me bring it to other schools.
Vicki: Wow, so we have learned so much about the Sit With US app.
So it’s an app. It’s also a club. It’s also a movement.
The Sit With US app: An app. A club. A movement.
I love this idea — when you’re new at a school, to think — it’s about helping others.
Because you know, you may go to that school and there may be a lot of people who are alone, and who want to sit with others.
I think this is a great app to talk about with our students, and also to share.
But also know, teachers, there are times when I have students that I work with, and they’re sitting by themselves. I do make my room an open and safe place that they can come to any time of day that they want to.
And of course, if you’ve been listening to this show for a while, you know that I had four years of my life when I was that kid who was alone. I was that kid who was picked last. I was that kid who was worthless, and that nobody would ever love.
If it hadn’t been for my parents, and eventually some teachers when I got older who really helped me see my worth as well as my own Christian faith… And that, I mean how can you overcome that?
There are so many gifted and amazing children who experience this. And one is too many.
So… take a look at the Sit With Us app. Share it with your kids, and let’s continue the fight against bullying.
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Seventeen-year-old Natalie Hampton is a Los Angeles high school senior, anti-bullying activist, app developer, and the CEO of a non-profit called Sit With Us, Inc. Natalie was severely bullied in middle school and was forced to eat lunch alone nearly every day. After she switched schools and quickly fell in with a great friend group, she would invite anyone who was eating alone to join her lunch table. Those people became not only her friends, but friends with everyone in the group, and were invited to social gatherings. She saw that one simple act of kindness made a big difference in their lives. This inspired her to create the Sit With Us mobile app, which serves as a free lunch planning tool for middle and high school kids so that no one has to eat lunch alone. Kids can use the app’s features to coordinate lunches with their friends. They can also volunteer to be Sit With Us Ambassadors for their schools and post open lunch events on campus so that anyone looking for a table to join can find one. The app has been featured by Apple under “New Apps We Love” in the App Store, has been downloaded by 100,000+ people in eight countries worldwide, has won numerous awards, and has garnered the attention and acclaim of international media and press. Natalie recently was named 1 of 25 Women Changing the World by People Magazine. This past summer, she won the Outstanding Youth Delegate Award from the United Nations Youth Assembly and was given the privilege to speak from the podium in the Great Assembly Hall about the importance of a peaceful and inclusive society. She has also been an invited keynote speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, TEDxTeen London, and many conferences, including “Girls Can Do” (Washington D.C.), Renaissance Weekend (Charleston), and Say NO Bullying (Los Angeles). Recognizing the effectiveness of her solution, six prominent anti-bullying organizations are partnering with Natalie, including Born This Way Foundation, PACER, and Champions Against Bullying, and her non-profit has received grants from corporations such as Disney, Samsung, and the Learning Channel.
In addition to her work with Sit With Us, Natalie volunteers extensively for her community. She is a senior counselor for United in Harmony, a non-profit organization that runs a sleep away camp for underprivileged and homeless kids, and she also tutors underprivileged kids at the Otis Booth campus of Children’s Institute Inc.
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