Bullies made Natalie feel worthless. She made an app to prove them wrong.

It was the worst two weeks of Natalie Hampton’s life.

She was finishing seventh grade at a new middle school, an all-girls academy where her mother had studied. Unlike elementary school, where she'd been happy and had lots of friends, Natalie had a hard time connecting with others at her new school — the girls there had already formed strong cliques and weren't looking for new members. Natalie was isolated, making her a prime target for bullies.

Three times in two weeks, groups of girls physically attacked her. A few days later, she started receiving threatening emails. Eventually, Natalie became completely ostracized.


"I felt horrible about myself because I assumed I was the only person in the world this was happening to," Natalie revealed. "I didn't understand what I'd done wrong to deserve being treated like this."

Natalie’s experience with bullying is extra galling because of how common it is.

Image via iStock.

According to a national survey, 28% of American students in grades 6-12 have reported being bullied in some way. It is alienating, stressful, and traumatic.

For Natalie, transferring schools again was what she needed. Now she has a strong cohort of friends and actively reaches out to include other students.  

"At my old school, sitting alone eating lunch was one of the worst parts of my day," she said. "It was embarrassing and I wished all the time that one person would come by and ask if I was OK and would sit with me."

So at her new school, Natalie started inviting others to sit with her.

One of the girls she welcomed to her table for lunch is now among her best friends. It got Natalie thinking: How could she help connect even more students to new social groups?

Last February, it came to her: She needed to build an app. For the next few months, she worked side-by-side with a coder, designing a mobile app called Sit With Us to help students meet new potential friends at lunchtime.

Sit With Us is based on a very simple concept: Your next best friend might be in the same room, and you just don’t know it yet.

Sit With Us — the best friendships might start with something as simple as lunch. Image via iStock.

Users who download the app only need to sign up and identify their location. Sit With Us does the rest, connecting them to other users nearby who’d happily welcome them at their lunch tables.

Natalie figured the app would be a fun little school project. Instead, it’s become a worldwide phenomenon, with more than 52,000 downloads and more than 132 million impressions in the iTunes App Store.

"We’ve been receiving messages on our social media about kids starting Sit With Us clubs at their school across the world, from as far away as New Zealand and Italy," Natalie said. "We haven’t heard any long-term stories since it’s so new, but we have heard of kids starting at their school and already meeting people."

Sit With Us is also finding fans among adults.

Sit With Us creator Natalie Hampton. Image via Sit with Us/Facebook, used with permission.

Natalie has received Facebook messages from nurses at UCLA hospital, conference attendees — even churches looking to connect lonely parishioners with new friends to sit with during services.

"Honestly, if this helps change one life or make things a little bit easier for one person, then all of this would be worth it," said Natalie. "Ultimately, I want to help people find other people who'll help them feel safe. That's what it's all about."

More
True
Cricket Wireless2
BXGD / Flickr and Cody Bondarchuk / Twitter

Sometimes the smallest gesture can turn your entire day around. You find a $5 bill in the pockets of your jeans. There's no traffic on the way home from work. Or by some divine intervention, you get 11 chicken McNuggets in your 10-piece box.

Of course, if you've ever had such a blessing, you know your first thought is, "Must be some sort of mistake."

But do you return the extra McNugget? Nope. You don't even feel an ounce of guilt for it. You dunk it in barbecue sauce and relish it like a gift from the gods.

A former McDonald's employee in Edmonton, Canada let the world know that sometimes an extra McNugget is not a mistake and he's become a viral hero.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes
terimakasih0/Pixabay

When Iowa Valley Junior-Senior High School principal Janet Behrens observed her students in the cafeteria, she was dismayed to see that they spent more time looking down at their phones than they did looking at and interacting with each other. So last year, she implemented a new policy that's having a big impact.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

They say that kids say the darnedest things, and seriously, they do. Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time with young children knows that sometimes the things they say can blow your mind.

Since teachers spend more time around little kids than anyone else, they are particularly privy to their profound and hilarious thoughts. That's why NYC kindergarten teacher Alyssa Cowit started collecting kid quotes from teachers around the country and sharing them on her Instagram account, Live from Snack Time, as well as her websiteand other social media channels.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
The Guardian / YouTube

Earlier this month, a beluga whale caught the world's attention by playing fetch with a rugby ball thrown by South African researchers off the waters of Norway.

The adorable video has been watched over 20 million times, promoting people across the globe to wonder how the whale became so comfortable around humans.

It's believed that the whale, known as Hvaldimir, was at some point, trained by the Russian military and was either released or escaped.

Keep Reading Show less
popular