Being excluded at school is a terrible feeling, but trying to find an open table at lunch can make you feel even worse. Thankfully, there’s a reason to stop dreading the lunch time loneliness and ditch the days of sitting by yourself. California teen Natalie Hampton is working to make those lonely vibes a thing of the past with Sit With Us, an app that provides a discrete way for students to find a place to sit during lunch time. Download the app to your phone, and start connecting with new people in your school now. Plus, hear more about the app and Natalie’s inspiration below!
Justine Magazine: What made you decide that an app was the way to go in your mission to prevent bullying and promote inclusiveness?
Natalie Hampton: Kids my age always have their phones in their hands, and we always love to try the latest app. I thought an app would be the best way to bring kids together in a discreet and private way. Sit With Us essentially lets you know where there is an open invitation to sit at lunch.
JM: How have this app and your experience creating it given you the confidence you need to succeed?
NH: For me, this was a small pet project that I intended to roll out at my school and perhaps a few other schools where I have friends. It is amazing to me that it has gone viral and is being downloaded not just in the US, but in many other countries. It struck a nerve, and this experience of feeling isolated at school is clearly something that resonates with people worldwide. Creating the app has definitely given me more confidence because I took a negative, traumatic experience and turned it into a positive one. I know that I want to pursue a career where I can help ease the suffering of others (such as becoming a doctor) and now I’m more confident that I can do that.
JM: How do you think your own middle school/high school experiences up to now would be different overall if you had had access to the app?
NH: In middle school, I only knew the people who were in my classes and they were not friendly at all. If I had had the app, I think I could have connected and made friends with a handful of nice girls in my class. All I really wanted was to connect with just one person. Sitting alone branded me as a prime target for bullying.
JM: Do you ever hear success stories from users? How does that make you feel?
NH: We get so many messages from people who love using the app. I also walk across my school campus and see people connecting with new friends, with smiles on their faces. It is not just the kids who are finding a table—I also hear from Sit With Us ambassadors who feel great about taking an active role in spreading kindness in their school communities. It definitely makes me feel that all of my time and effort in creating the app have been worth it.
JM: What’s the best thing about your app?
NH: I love the featured lunches. I can scroll through and see many open lunches happening every day on my school campus, and it makes me smile.
JM: You have a successful app that has already helped so many students, but what else are you personally doing day-to-day to bring that inclusiveness full-circle?
NH: I am definitely the person who will always invite someone to join me if I see that person eating alone. It was that experience at my high school, and seeing how it changed people’s lives (as they became friends with all of my friends, and were invited to birthday parties) that inspired me to create an app. I wanted to affect change on a larger scale. I spend a lot of time posting on social media about inclusion on all of the various platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat). A big part of my mission is community outreach, so I am going to be speaking at various schools and events to spread my message. I believe that student-led initiatives are far more effective in decreasing bullying and studies have shown that is the case. Basically, I want everyone to know that it’s cool to be kind, and that spreading kindness makes you feel good.