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Making school cafeterias more friendly: There’s an app for that

Published: May 1, 2017 | By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
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A new app promises to make young people feel more comfortable in school cafeterias.

Ask many teens and tweens what they dread most about school and they’ll respond, “Lunch.” That may seem surprising but school cafeterias have long been places where loners and shy students feel especially vulnerable. Everyone else seems to have lunch companions. In some instances, lunchroom loners even experience bullying.

Sasha, a visitor to The Friendship Blog shares her experience:

“I sat alone at a table. I felt so stupid and embarrassed that I didn’t eat and just sat there on my phone for what felt like hours.” (Trouble Finding Friends in the School Lunchroom, 12/16)

There’s an app for that

One teenager has invented an app to solve the conundrum of sitting alone. It’s called Sit With Us. Creator Natalie Hampton explains in the app description, “Apart from the verbal taunts and violence, one of the worst things was having to eat lunch alone, and the embarrassment of having others see me eating lunch alone.” After she changed schools, she began inviting those sitting alone to join her.

Users of the app are student leaders who serve as “ambassadors” and discreetly invite loners to join their tables. Sit With Us has a welcoming kit to assist ambassadors in reaching out.

Chelsea is another teen who could have used the app. After falling out with her friend, she found herself alone at lunch near the end of the school year.

“But now I am friendless…I sit by myself at the lunch table because all the other people that I am friends with have tight groups already and it’s just hard to accept someone at the end of the year, like me, who is moving away anyway (Middle School Friendships Can Be Trying, 04/16).” 

Young men experience lunchroom anxiety, too. One writes: “In my sophomore year I was very lonely eating lunches by myself. Every day I would dread lunch because everybody had a friend or someone to talk to while I sat by myself. The problem is that my moving around from place to place has messed up my social life.”

Could your school use the app?

Sit With Us could also be used by shy kids who have yet to develop leadership skills, those wanting to seek out others in similar circumstances. For some, the app can be a safer gateway toward friendship than starting a conversation face-to-face.

Educators and guidance counselors at schools can spearhead the ambassador program as faculty advisors, implementing a school club around the app. Sit With Us also has offline, nondigital instructions.

App creator Natalie Hampton has received national recognition for Sit With Us. She was even asked to speak to Harvard University education students. Her story from being bullied in middle school to becoming a national advocate shows how one person can made a difference. The success of her app proves that young people care about their peers and preventing bullying.

The future is in good hands with teens like Natalie and the app Ambassadors, making lunchtime at school cafeterias a better experience and creating friendships along the way.

Sit With Us is available in the iTunes store and on Google Play.

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Comments (2)

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  1. DCFem says:

    There’s also this group that is expanding to more schools: http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/high-school-senior-creates-group-dine-student-eat/story?id=46172969

    Some young people seem to have this one figured out. Let’s applaud them for making high school a better place.

  2. Ali Wenzke says:

    What a fabulous idea! Whenever I interview clients about their childhood moves, the most traumatic memories typically take place in the cafeteria. You’re helping a lot of people with this app, Natalie Hampton. Thank you.

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