Going to school in America looks simultaneously amazing and terrifying – judging by teen movies.
Alongside all the cool things like baseball games and no uniform, lots of people seem to get thrown into corridor bins and have to eat their lunches in the toilets (if Mean Girls and Glee are anything to go by).
But one teen is putting a stop to a particularly isolating form of school bullying.
Natalie Hampton, 16, says that she had to sit alone during lunch in the seventh grade (Year 8), as a victim of bullying.
So, now she’s created an app to help lonely students find lunch buddies.
‘Sit With Us’ launched last week and aims to prevent schoolkids from being publicly rejected in the canteen.
It was inspired, Natalie says on her website, ‘by a miserable experience of being bullied in middle school’.
‘Apart from the verbal taunts and violence, one of the worst things was having to eat lunch alone, and the embarrassment of having others see me eating lunch alone,’ she writes.
She eventually moved schools and says that whenever someone was eating alone, she’d always invite them to join her group.
‘Each time, the person’s face would light up, and the look of relief would wash over the person’s face,’ she explained. ‘Some of those people have become some of my closest friends.’
Users, who are called Ambassadors, create lunch invites on the app which then signal to other users who are looking for company.
And then both parties are able to chat to arrange where and when to meet.
‘Sit With Us was born because I am committed to making sure that other kids don’t suffer as I did,’ Natalie says.
‘I believe that every school has upstanders like me, who are happy and willing to invite anyone to join the lunch table. It’s my home, with people pledging to be Ambassadors at their schools, that no one will feel left out.’
The app is free to download from the App Store.
And people are loving the idea.