Beyonders are people who push boundaries. They break new ground, go beyond expectations, beyond the story, and beyond the norm. They bring a new perspective and inspire others with their vision for the future to build the world they love.
Mega Construx™ celebrates what makes Beyonders special, and brings these passionate fans together in a community that drives them further, fuels their inspiration to do more, and encourages them to reach higher ground.”
Sixteen-year-old Natalie Hampton is a Los Angeles high school junior, anti-bullying activist, app developer and the CEO of a non-profit called Sit With Us, Inc. Severely bullied in middle school, Natalie was forced to eat lunch alone nearly every day. After she switched schools, and quickly fell in with a great friend group, she saw that one simple act of kindness made a big difference in their lives. This inspired her to create the Sit With Us mobile app, which serves as a free lunch planning tool for middle and high school kids so that no one has to eat lunch alone. Below is more about her journey to create the app and how she helps others Build Beyond™.
Tell us about Sit With Us.
My initiative was inspired by the painful experience of being severely bullied in 7th and 8th grade. I was physically attacked, taunted verbally, cyber bullied, and ostracized by my peers so that I ate lunch alone every day. I feel that if I had been able to find the support of one person in my class, things would have been different.
When I changed schools for 9th grade, I immediately fell in with a nice group of friends. Whenever I saw someone eating alone, I would ask that person to join our table because I knew exactly how they felt. Over time, those people became a central part of my friend group and were then invited to birthday parties. This experience inspired me to create my free app, Sit With Us.
Sit With Us helps kids find allies in their schools and works as a social network/lunch-planning platform. You download it, create a profile and put in your school information. If you choose to be an “Ambassador,” you take a pledge in which you agree to post open lunches in the app from time to time (stating the date, time and location) and if anyone wants to join your table, you will make them feel welcome. That way, anyone looking for an “open invitation” for a table to join simply has to look in the app to find one. It’s all very discreet, without any embarrassment. For schools that do not allow cell phone use, we recommend an “analog” version, where Ambassadors post open lunch notices on a bulletin board, or put signs on their tables. I believe that every school has upstanders like me who want to make their school communities more kind and inclusive.
To my surprise, Sit With Us went viral upon release in September 2016, and is now being used by over 100,000 people (both kids and adults) in seven countries worldwide!
What inspires you to challenge the status quo and Build Beyond?
My experience with bullying inspired me to create Sit With Us because I wanted to affect this kind of change on a much larger scale. I felt as though if I went on with my life and did nothing for the kids out there who continued to suffer as I did, I would be just as bad as the people who watched me suffer and did nothing. More importantly, I saw that the simple act of inviting people over to my table made a big difference in their lives, and affected the path they took from that day forward.
What has been the most exciting part of Sit With Us?
The Sit With Us movement has opened so many doors for me because its message of inclusion has resonated with people of all ages around the world. It has been exciting to appear on national television shows, sometimes with my Sit With Us ambassadors/friends, and also to be invited to so many places to speak. Probably the most exciting thing was to be invited to speak at TEDxTeen in London this past June. I have always wanted to go to London, and my parents and I tacked on extra days so we could go sightseeing (and do the Harry Potter tour!). I also loved connecting with all of the inspiring and dynamic people who were fellow speakers.
What do you see yourself doing next?
I’ve got a number of speaking engagements for the rest of the year, and I will continue to do community outreach to spread the word about Sit With Us. While that is going on, and during my senior year of high school, I will try to figure out where I want to go to college and I will be filling out applications.
Where can we learn more about Sit With Us?
We have a lot of info on my web site: http://www.sitwithus.io and on our social channels:
What tips or suggestions do you have for future Beyonders?
First, I want kids to know that they are never too young to make a difference. Take a look around at your community, and if you see problems, try to come up with solutions. Who knew that just a year and a half after I first came up with my idea that I would be in charge of a global app and running my own non-profit? Sometimes what may seem impossible at first is truly very possible if you put in the effort to make it succeed.
Second, please remember to choose kindness. It’s up to us to make a difference in our communities — to leave the world a better place than how we found it. Something as seemingly small as lunch can make huge strides in making a school more inclusive. Having been on both sides, the person who was excluded and the person who invites anyone sitting alone to join the lunch table, I know that my app can make a difference. I believe that if we spread kindness out into the world, it comes back to us. Even if you don’t use the app, you can embody the spirit of Sit With Us by inviting someone who is sitting alone to join you. You never know – your future best friend might be sitting at the next table and Sit With Us can help you take the first step.
Looking beyond, where do you see the world (or yourself) in 10-15-20 years?
My dream is to major in Psychology in college and then go on to Medical School. I love not only helping others, but especially working with children, so I hope to pursue Child Psychiatry or Pediatric Medicine. I could also see myself continuing to run Sit With Us, or another mode of technology, in an effort to bring people together