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

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."