How one teen went from bullied middle schooler to app inventor to world-renowned activist.
True
L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

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.

True

Marine veteran Paul Coppola is a wonderful example of the transformational power of service dogs.

Ten years ago, he was rocked by two explosions in an attack that took the lives of 17 Marines in Afghanistan. The attack left Coppola with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and an injured back.

Coppola didn't think his struggles warranted a service dog but after prodding from his wife, he was paired with Dobby, a four-year-old black Lab mix trained by veteran organization Operation Delta Dog.

Dobby and Paul soon became best friends and partners in life.

Keep Reading Show less
via © Jakub Gojda/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021 and © Zoe Ross /Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Two of the winners of the Comedy Pet Photo Awards.

A few weeks ago, Upworthy shared the hilarious winners of the 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards and the winner was a well-timed shot of a monkey who appears to have hurt the family jewels on a suspension wire. (Don't worry folks, no monkeys were harmed for the awards.)

The awards were created six years ago by Tom Sullam and Paul Joynson-Hicks to promote positive awareness of animal welfare issues. The competition has been so successful, the duo decided to branch out and create the Comedy Pet Photo Awards, where photographers can submit pictures of their furry friends for a £2,000 ($2650) prize.

Donations generated by the competition go to Animal Support Angels, an animal welfare charity in the UK.

This year's winner is Zoe Ross for "Whizz Pop," a photo of her labrador puppy Pepper who appears to be tooting bubbles.

“We never ever thought that we would win but entered the competition because we loved the idea of helping a charity just by sending in a funny photo of Pepper," Ross said in a statement. "She is such a little monkey, and very proud of herself, bringing in items from the garden and parading past you until you notice her. She is the happiest puppy we’ve ever known and completely loved to pieces.”

Here are the rest of the winners of the 2021 Comedy Pet Photo Awards.

Overall Winner: Zoe Ross "Whizz Pop," Penkridge, UK

© Zoe Ross /Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Did this puppy swallow a bubble?

Best Dog Category: Carmen Cromer "Jurassic Bark," Pittsboro, North Carolina

© Carmen Cromer/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"My golden retriever, Clementine, loves to stick her face in front of the hose while I water the plants. Her expression in this photo made me think of a tyrannosaurus rex, hence the title, "Jurassic Bark." Duh nuh nuuuh nuhnuh, duh nuh nuuuh nuh nuh, dun duh duuuh nuh nuh nuh nUUUUUUhhhh," Carmen Cromer.

Best Cat Category: Kathrynn Trott "Photobomb," Ystradgynlais, UK

© Kathrynn Trott/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Jeff stealing the limelight from his brother Jaffa.

Best Horse Category: Mary Ellis, "I said 'Good Morning," Platte River State Park, Nebraska

© Mary Ellis/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"I like to visit the stable horses before I begin my hike at the State Park. This is the reply I received when I said 'Good morning,'" Mary Ellis.

All Other Creatures Category: Sophie Bonnefoi, "The Eureka Moment," Oxford, UK

© Sophie Bonnefoi/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Cutie and Speedy are two chicks hatched from eggs placed in an incubator at home in August 2020. They spent their first few weeks indoors. In the photo, they are just over two weeks old. They were curious about everything. This is the day they discovered their own shadow. It was hilarious to see them wondering and exploring that 'dark thing' that was moving with them!" Sophie Bonnefoi.

Junior Category: Suzi Lonergan, "Sit!" Pacific Palisades, California

© Suzi Lonergan/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Our granddaughter gave the command to sit. Beau is very obedient," Suzi Lonergan.

Pets Who Look Like Their Owners Category: Jakub Gojda, "That Was a Good One!" Czech Republic

© Jakub Gojda/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This photo was taken by accident during the photography of my ex-girlfriend with her beloved mare. For this cheerful moment, I thank the fly that sat on the horse's nose and he instinctively shook his head," Jakub Gojda.

Highly Commended: Chloe Beck, "Hugo the Photobomber," Walsall, UK

© Chloe Beck/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This is my best friend Faith, her husband Alex, and their cheeky Sproodle, Hugo. Faith wanted a photograph to mark a special occasion—her first outing after shielding at home for 14 months. Hugo jumped into the frame at just the right moment!" Chloe Beck.

Highly Commended: Luke O'Brien, "Mumford and Chum," Coventry, UK

© Luke O'Brien/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

​"Losing the opportunity to play with my human bandmates during lockdown, Flint, my rescue dog, soon taught me that we didn't just have sharp bones in common, but musical ones, too. He soon became the perfect substitute for a collaborative stomp up at home, so much so that we felt we deserved our own band name (Muttford and Chum). With my camera set up remotely during this shoot, I think it's fair to say that the image is proof that his conviction as a performer matches my own," Luke O'Brien.

Highly Commended: Kathryn Clark, "Wine Time," Clichester, UK

© Kathryn Clark/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"It's that time of day again! Little Blue enjoys it almost as much as me," Kathryn Clark.

Highly Commended: Diana Jill Mehner, "Crazy in Love with Fall," Paderborn, Germany

© Diana Jill Mehner/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

This is Leia. As you can see, she definitely loves playing with all the leaves in autumn. It was really tricky to take this picture because you never know what the dog is going to do next," Diana Jill Mehner.

Highly Commended: Christine Johnson, "Boing," Crosby Beach, UK

© Christine Johnson/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"I was busy playing with my dog on the beach and this dog came to play. I liked the shapes he was making in the air," Christine Johnson

Highly Commended: Manel Subirats Ferrer, "Ostrich Style," Platja del Prat de Llobregat, Spain

© Manel Subirats Ferrer/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Nuka playing hide and seek at the beach.

Highly Commended: Colin Doyle, "Nosey Nieghbor," Bromsgrove, UK

© Colin Doyle/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

​"According to Ozzy, we need a new fence panel ASAP. He is fed up with Chester our nosy next door neighbor spying on him every time he has a meal," Colin Doyle.

Highly Commended: Corey Seeman, "A Warm Spot on a Cold Day," Michigan

© Corey Seeman/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Two of the morning regulars at the dog park are Gary (hound mix with the jacket) and Kona, one of the most chill dogs ever," Corey Seeman.

Highly Commended: Lucy Slater, "So What?" San Diego, California

© Lucy Slater/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This is how I like to sit!" Vincent the cat.

Highly Commended: Mollie Cheary, "Photobomb," Poole, UK

© Mollie Cheary/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Bailey was so excited to see her friends, she couldn't sit still for a photo!" Mollie Cheary.

5-year-old Milo puts his all into his performance of "Feliz Navidad."

It's December, which means we hear familiar holiday songs everywhere we go, from the mall to the grocery store to restaurants. Soon we might see and hear carolers singing out the sounds of the season with Christmas classics such as "Winter Wonderland," "Silent Night," "Carol of the Bells," and, of course, the always festive "Feliz Navidad."

It's already hard not to bop along to that bilingual favorite, but a video of a 5-year-old joyfully performing it has taken the tune to another level. Alexis Fuller shared the video of her son Milo playing "Feliz Navidad" on Facebook last Christmas season and it is pure delight.

"This little guy was too excited for this one..." Fuller wrote. "Happy holidays everyone."

How could anyone not be happy watching this little guy play his guitar and sing?

The kid's got it all, doesn't he? The sweet smile, the upbeat energy, the in-tune vocals and some impressive guitar prowess for such a young age. And the way he stood up and kicked that stool back as he broke into the chorus? Milo's got a bright future ahead of him.

The story of "Feliz Navidad" itself is a delight as well. José Feliciano wrote the song more than 50 years ago, when he was recording music in Los Angeles far from his home in Puerto Rico during the holidays. "It was expressing the joy that I felt on Christmas and the fact that I felt very lonely. I missed my family, I missed Christmas carols with them. I missed the whole Christmas scene," he told NPR.

The fact that the song has endured for so long has surprised and delighted him. He told the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers last year that "there is no greater reward than writing a song that has become everybody's Christmas anthem, and all the joy that it brings fills me with joy."

I hope Feliciano has seen Milo singing his song to see how much joy it really does bring.

Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande duked it out on Jimmy Fallon's 'The Tonight Show.'

There are pop stars, and then there are singers. While recording studio technology can make people sound like amazing singers, the proof is in their live performances.

Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande took it a whole step further on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," delivering not only a jaw-dropping live performance but doing so in the form of revolving pop diva hits in an "impossible karaoke" showdown. In less than five minutes, they showed off their combined ability to nail pretty much anything, from imitating iconic singers' styles to belting out well-known songs with their own vocal stylings.

Watch this and try not to be impressed:

Keep Reading Show less