Natalie Hampton had been the target of bullying since middle school. What started out as “mean girl” comments and name-calling eventually turned into physically abusive bullying. In her 7th-grade year her “friends” would start to ditch her purposely as a joke and others would tell her outright that she could not sit with them at lunch.
“I believe that being isolated branded me as a target. All I wanted was to have just one person who had my back,” Hampton said.
“…the worst thing was being treated as an outcast and having to eat lunch alone every day.”
It was that type of bullying, mean-spirited behavior that, at first, Hampton described as “little things.” But bullying is serious business in the minds and hearts of a 7th graders, and Natalie began to become physically ill and wrought with anxiety from the daily experiences of being bullied. She also cried a lot.
Drawing was her therapy. It was a way to let out the turmoil and stress she was feeling inside and express those feelings creatively.
“I had bruises on my body from being punched with fists or shoved into lockers, I was slapped and had my hair tied in knots, and I still have a scar on my left hand from when a girl clawed me with nails and drew blood,” Natalie told TODAY Parents. “I was told by my classmates that I’m ‘so ugly it’s scary’ and ‘Everyone hates you.'”
The pain and suffering she was enduring at the hands of bullies went on for two long years. After that, Natalie enrolled in a different school in Sherman Oaks, California, where bullying was not tolerated.
“I was told by my classmates that I’m ‘so ugly…”
It wasn’t long after Hampton was at her new school, living a completely opposite reality, that she decided that she wanted to give back. She wanted to help others who were living the same reality that she was now experiencing. “I wanted to take all my pain and suffering from the first two years and turn it into something that could help prevent what was happening to other kids out there,” Hampton explained. “So that’s why I created ‘Sit With Us.'”
She wanted to help others
Hampton’s self-imposed therapy of drawing turned out to be the tool she would use to begin designing her app, ‘Sit With Us.’ Using pen and paper, she began writing and drawing how she wanted the app to function and what she wanted it to look like. That led to Hampton to designing a storyboard and then to filtering through hundreds of versions until she felt satisfied with what she had created.
Hampton worked side by side with a coder to develop the final product. Students need to enter the name and location of their school and sign up using a valid email or their Facebook account.
A user lists what they might be interested in when they first create their profile.
The app is designed to promote kindness and inclusion. The first step after downloading the app is to create a profile of who you are. The next step is to choose if you want to sign a pledge, written by Hampton herself, stating that you would post things from time to time and accept connections from other people who were using the app.
To make those connections a little easier, a user lists what they might be interested in when they first create their profile. Those interests could be anything from playing the piano to neuroscience. Then the search page will connect the user to any lunch period that is happening anywhere at that time. Just click, and you are having lunch with a friend.
Take the pledge.
Creating the app was therapeutic for Hampton. “It almost felt like I was a superhero fighting back at all of the bad stuff that had happened to me,” Natalie said.
All Natalie Hampton ever wanted was a friend who. She wanted to be able to grab her lunch and look out into the lunch room for a place to sit and then for someone to say, “Sit with us!” As of May 2017, there were over 100,000 users of the app. Natalie turned her bad experience into a way to help others, and now there are thousands of kids across the country who wish to hear those three simple words before having lunch together.
After switching schools in ninth grade, Natalie found a supportive new friend group, but she never forgot how it felt to be the outcast.
“Whenever I saw someone eating alone, I would ask that person to join our table, because I knew exactly how they felt. I saw the look of relief wash over their faces,” she said.
Source: High Schooler Launches ‘Sit With Us’ App To Eliminate Lunchtime Loneliness At Schools by CBS New York and Teen invents ‘Sit With Us’ app so no high schooler has to eat alone on Today. Also, The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation | S3 Ep72 | Sit With Us App by TheHenryFord on YouTube.