California teen combats bullying with unique app


Sam Falb, News Editor

When middle-schooler Natalie Hampton walked into school, she knew that during lunch, she’d sit alone. Just like millions of students across the U.S., Hampton faced embarrassment and frustration upon walking into the cafeteria each day. That’s why, on September 9, the now high school junior launched Sit With Us, an interactive app that allows users to find reliable, friendly groups to sit with during their lunch period.

“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,” Hampton said in an interview with Us Weekly.

Eating lunch with friends encourages conversation, new ideas and even something as simple as laughter. Sitting alone can put someone in an unfortunate spotlight and possibly even worsen their situation. Mental health is very important, especially during high school when students are under incomprehensible amount of stress.

“You have people who you know and can to talk to about what happened that day. You also feel included, which is good for mental health,” sophomore Emiliano Calvo-Alcaniz said about eating with friends.

Hampton hopes to nip unlucky happenstances such as isolation and disappointment in the bud with her new app.

“The way that it works is it’s a free lunch-planning app where kids can find lunch tables if they feel like they have nowhere to go… kids can sign up as ambassadors for a Sit With Us club and agree to post open lunches so that anyone who has the app and has nowhere to go can find a table and, hopefully, make some new friends,” Hampton said.

The app allows users to quickly create accounts by inputting a username, password and email to start a profile. After users create an account, they’re given a series of options including Featured Events, wherein students can find nearby events that groups are posting about. The Plus button allows an individual to start their own event and become an ambassador, which includes a title, setting of an informal location (front staircase, auditorium entrance, etc.) along with a brief description, tags, and other attendants. The Chat button allows users to communicate and the Profile button is where one can change their school, profile picture and other information.

“Bullying is more rampant than ever… with social media being a prime cause. [This] app… is as kind as it is necessary,” retired education professor Jim Delisle said. “[It] gives a necessary lifeline to kids who need a friend who really cares about the kids who often go unseen or are ridiculed.”

The teenage and young adult years can often present many difficulties to the average student, with heavier workload and more rigorous classes being just the tip of the iceberg. With an app now on the market designated to make connections and social interaction as easy and two-sided as possible, students could potentially experience performance improvement in other areas such as education, sports and extracurriculars due to the social stress alleviation.

“I think it’s a good way for people to go outside their comfort zone and sit with new people at lunch. Maybe [for] those who are new to a school or don’t have a close set of friends, this will give them an opportunity to feel included and sit with someone at lunch which is really an important thing,” WJ counseling director Jodi Edmunds said.