By Matilde Bechet
Entering high school is not always the easiest of transitions. Most adolescents develop relationships with their peers at a young age, and they are reluctant to allow new “members” into their groups of friends. This problem exacerbates the pressure of cliques: the athletes, the popular girls, the cheerleaders, the academic-oriented, the musically gifted, and more. High school is a community with multiple sub-groups, and it can be frightening for students to find their niche in such an overwhelming environment.
When it comes to lunch hour, students might have difficulty approaching a table and asking to sit with strangers. I can recall my experience at OBHS on the first day of school in 8th grade. Having just moved from Portugal to the U.S., anxiety overcame me as I thought about walking into the crowded cafeteria where I knew no one. Self-conscious of my English capabilities, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hold a conversation. In the end, I was too shy to approach someone, and I decided to sit by myself.
I was the fortunate new girl because the following day a group of girls (who then became my friends) asked me to join them at their table. For the rest of the year, I sat with them and other students whom I still talk to as a senior. While I did not have to sit by myself for the rest of the school year, this might have been the case if I not been asked to join my friends. The purpose of the app “Sit With Us” is to prevent such uncertainty and loneliness among students.
Its current CEO, Natalie Hampton, a 17-year-old girl from Sherman Oaks, California, created the app. She was bullied in high school. Her inspiration for the design of such an app arrived after she sat by herself for an entire school year during lunchtime. Natalie wanted to change such a norm, especially since sitting alone made her a target for bullies.
The app is free, allowing students to sign up with either email or Facebook. All one needs to do is download the app on a smartphone. Students can also pledge to become “ambassadors” and create “open lunches,” thus signaling to students that they can sit at their table.
Natalie Hampton eventually moved to a new school. Whenever Hampton encountered someone sitting alone, she immediately approached the student and began a conversation.
But Hampton understands that not every student has the confidence to approach a table. She emphasizes one of the app’s perks when she states, “This way it’s very private. It’s through the phone. No one else has to know.” Students don’t need to be afraid or anticipate rejection from fellow peers.
I recently spoke to Principal Lasher regarding the app, explaining its purpose and function. I asked if she would be open to implementing the app at OBHS. Principal Lasher was very interested and stated that it would “provide social opportunities for kids that might not have them currently.”
Principal Lasher went on to say that she “wants to learn about it a bit more,” but based on what she knows so far, she thinks the app would most likely be helpful. OBHS would benefit from such an app because not one student should be sitting alone during a time when he or she can interact openly with fellow peers.
So, go ahead! Download “Sit With Us.” It’s never too late to make new friends regardless of your age, for you can never have too many connections or too many conversations. When you see someone sitting alone, go up to that person and say, “Hi, my name is________. Do you want to ‘Sit With Us?’”