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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.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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