By Tracey Dowdy
Raise your hand if your middle school years were amazing, you were overflowing with self-confidence about your appearance, you fit in with all the cool kids and you loved being the center of attention.
Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
I know, I know, not everyone hates middle school. Maybe those elementary years were worse for you or maybe you struggled in high school. The bottom line is that for a lot of kids, there’s a time when fitting in and making friends is a struggle, and there’s nowhere that’s more evident than the school lunch room. Enter “Sit With Us”, the app that’s designed to ensure nobody has to eat lunch alone.
Creator Natalie Hampton was inspired to create the app after she spent all of seventh grade eating lunch by herself. She remembers the awkwardness and embarrassment of being turned away when she asked to sit with other students and she says the isolation made her vulnerable to bullying. Her experiences left her feeling depressed, stressed out, and eventually she had to be hospitalized as a result. “I was a shell of the person I once was. When I walked into a classroom, I was planning an escape route,” she says.
Hampton is now an eleventh grader and attends a different school but she’s not forgotten what if felt like to be an outsider. “I felt that if I was thriving in a new school but didn’t do anything about the people who feel like this every single day, then I’m just as bad as the people who watched me eat alone.”
Sit With Us enables students to easily – and discretely – find a friendly place to sit at lunch. Because it’s based on an app, students don’t have to deal with the embarrassment or awkwardness of being rejected or told “You can’t sit with us.”
Kids simply download the app, sign in with Facebook or email, decide if they want to be an Ambassador or participant (you can change your mind later) and then add friends to complete their profile. Students can then search for events or create one of their own.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.