How one teen went from bullied middle schooler to app inventor to world-renowned activist.

Natalie Hampton's experience in middle school left her with painful memories she won't soon forget.

In seventh and eighth grade, she was bullied relentlessly. Often, she came home with multiple bruises and scars from the encounters.

"The worst incident was when a girl held scissors pointed at my throat saying that she felt a desperate urge to slit my throat," writes Natalie in an email. "I don’t know if my memories of that incident will ever fade."


But the bullying didn't stop when she went home at the end of the day. Thanks to social media, she was at the mercy of her attackers 24/7.

"I felt so vulnerable, voiceless, and worthless," she recalls.

As a result, she ate lunch alone everyday, and the lack of a friend base made everything she experienced so much worse.

My mom took this photo of me when I was being severely bullied at my previous school. My parents went in numerous times...

Posted by Sit With Us on Sunday, September 18, 2016

By ninth grade, Natalie was finally able to switch schools, which helped significantly. However, every time she saw a kid bullied or exiled, it hit her at her core.

So she started inviting these kids to sit with her at lunch.

"I would always invite anyone who was sitting alone to join my lunch table because I knew how awful they felt," Natalie explains. "I became so close to these kids and saw firsthand that this simple act of kindness made a huge difference in their lives."

In fact, one girl confided in Natalie telling her that, after joining Natalie at the lunch table, she overcame suicidal thoughts.

That's when Natalie realized how life-changing small friendship offerings like this could be. It inspired her to take action on a much larger scale.

Natalie turned to social media — the same place she was initially the target of cyberbullying — to help give kids a clearer path to a seat with friends a lunch table.  

Natalie Hampton and her campaign. All photos via Natalie Hampton, used with permission.

With the help of a freelance coder, she started developing an app she ended up naming Sit With Us.

It has a super simple functionality: The app allows students to act as ambassadors and let kids know they're welcome to sit with them at lunch. On the other side, kids looking for a friendly table can find the list of "open lunches" in the app, which means anyone can join them.

By becoming a Sit With Us ambassador, a student pledges to welcome anyone and everyone who wants to join their table. It calls upon them to not only be more mindful of the bullying taking place in their school, but also to take action rather than just watch it happen.

"If people are more kind to each other at lunch, then they will be more kind inside the classroom and beyond," Natalie writes. "One small step like this can change the overall dynamic of a school community over time so that everyone feels welcome and included."

Since its inception, the Sit With Us app has garnered over 100,000 users across eight countries and won the 2017 Appy Award for best nonprofit app.

According to Natalie, even adults are using it to coordinate lunches and find people to sit with at church.

Meanwhile, Natalie has become a major anti-bullying advocate, speaking at renowned conferences like TEDxTeen London, Girls Can Do, and Say No to Bullying. Natalie's also been honored with a number of accolades including the Outstanding Youth Delegate Award and the Copper Black Award, and she was recently named one of People Magazine's 25 Women Changing the World.

Natalie at TEDxTeen London.

And she also regularly speaks at schools around the world about the importance of kindness and inclusion.

She knows how bullying can affect students and wants to provide resources for how to cope. Now she's focusing on spreading the word and empowering more students to be leaders like her in the anti-bullying fight.

"I believe that every school has students like me who want to take a leadership role in making their schools more inclusive."

Natalie says when she goes to college, she plans to continue spreading her message any way she can. She hopes that one day, no kid will have to sit alone at lunch.

"I will visit schools in the area near my college," Natalie writes. "I want my project to continue to grow and help as many people as possible."

However, Natalie believes the key to solving the bullying epidemic lies with the students themselves. Studies have shown that student-led initiatives are far more successful at curtailing bullying than those started by adults. Imagine if all the "cool kids" at every school in America became Sit With Us ambassadors. They could likely eliminate the behavior in no time.

But even without the app, if kids realize they have the power to stop bullying simply by inviting those who're being left out to sit at their proverbial table, it could change everything.  

When everyone's on board to make a change, kindness trumps intolerance, every day of the week.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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