Inclusiveness goes high-tech at school with a bullied teen's new - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Inclusiveness goes high-tech at school with a bullied teen's new app

"Sit with Us" app encourages inclusiveness at lunchtime (Source: KFVS) "Sit with Us" app encourages inclusiveness at lunchtime (Source: KFVS)
Students use the buddy bench at Franklin Elementary in Cape Girardeau. (Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS) Students use the buddy bench at Franklin Elementary in Cape Girardeau. (Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS)
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) -

Natalie Hampton, a 16-year-old from California, knows what it feels like to be bullied.

That is why she has designed a new app that takes inclusiveness to the high-tech level.

It is called "Sit With Us."

Hampton explains she had miserable experiences in middle school.

"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," Natalie wrote online.

After moving schools, she would invite people sitting alone to join her for lunch.

"Each time, the person's face would light up, and the look of relief would wash over the person's face," Natalie said. "Some of those people have become some of my closest friends."

Therein lies her motivation for the new app.

The goal is simple: make sure that no kids felt like they had nowhere to go.

It doesn't stop there. Students can even start a movement at their school by being an ambassador.

How it works:

The app is designed to easily let others invite fellow students to join them at the lunch table.

Students must sign in via email or Facebook. Once they type in their school and address they can connect with other students.

The app also includes the following features:

  • Create a personal profile, including your interests.
  • Add friends, including a “favorite” list.
  • Search for lunches nearby.
  • Add a lunch and invite your friends to join.
  • Decide if you want to be a Sit With Us Ambassador for your school, and take the Ambassador’s pledge. (More information on how to start an Ambassador’s Club is on our web site.)
  • As an Ambassador, host open lunches from time to time that anyone can join.
  • Send messages to your friends or create group chats.
  • View your scheduled or past lunches.
  • Notifications ensure that you won't miss any updates on lunch requests or friend requests.
  • Message center, where you can see all of your chat history.
  • Earn points by posting lunch, approving another's request, adding a friend, checking in a lunch, etc.

How Heartland schools are teaching inclusiveness:

The Cape Girardeau Public School District and the Jackson R-2 School district start teaching students about being inclusive as early as kindergarten.

Elementary schools use a tool they call the buddy bench.

"The buddy bench is where you sit if you don't have a friend to sit with or play with and wait until someone comes to play with with you and you have to say 'hey do you want to come play with me,'" Kamijah Hamilton-Smith explains, a student at Franklin Elementary.

School counselor Debra Rau says there can be a level of anxiety during lunchtime.

"This is a free play time but it's also a time you don't want ot feel lonely," Rau said. "You want to feel connected to your friends to the other people in your class."

Making sure all students feel like they belong is one of the main reasons Franklin Elementary put in a buddy bench this school year.

Rau says it teaches students two things: learning to ask for a friend and how to include others.

"I think it sets the tone for the way you live the rest of your life as an adult," Rau said."I mean if you learn to accept other people, you learn to love other people without judging them."

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