SILVER SPRING, MD -- A smartphone app that encourages students to make new friends over lunch and stop bullying is starting to appear in Montgomery County Public Schools.
The app is called "Sit With Us"
Montgomery Blair High School senior Jake Coch-Gallup said he first heard about the app during his junior year and he began planning to roll out the program it supports this year.
"I thought it was just a great idea. When I would see students sitting alone at lunch it would make me feel really upset that they wouldn’t have any friends to be with and that they were alone," said Coch-Gallup, who added that he loves what the app is trying to accomplish. "That it’s trying to add inclusion, add unity to our school, it’s trying to fight against bullying, and I just love that aspect of it. Trying to meet new people, make new friends and then, also, just, connect the Blair community."
The app was created by a California teenager, Natalie Hampton. She said she was bullied in middle school and one of the worst aspects of that bullying was having to eat lunch alone. She added that she made the app in an effort to ensure other kids do not suffer the way she did.
"I thought great, because all too often we do see students sitting alone, just staring at their phones during lunch and really not socially engaged," said Montgomery Blair High School Principal Renay Johnson, describing what she thought about the app when she learned Coch-Gallup was implementing it in the school.
Students can download the app, sign up for their school, and find events for lunch meet-ups.
Hampton said another student started using the app at Walter Johnson High School last year.
Coch-Gallup said around 50 people have signed up for Montgomery-Blair High School and they have held three events so far.
"First meeting, there was just a few kids showing up and some of them were kind of hostile and they didn’t really know how the meeting was going to run. The second meeting grew a little more, kids were a little more friendly, but they still weren’t that social. And by the third meeting we had a card game going, everyone was laughing and we had about 11 people, so really dramatic growth," added Coch-Gallup.
Coch-Gallup and Johnson said they have already begun talks with other students and principals interested in bringing it to their schools and hope to have the app in use in all county high and middle schools.