Last time, we heard the story of the third culture kids, who are raised between different cultures. This time, kids who have the experience of school bullying are waiting to be heard. And they need to know that they will have a friend at school to do things together. They will stop being a target and avoid loneliness. It takes a person to make a difference.
So what difference can friendship make to school bullying? We can find the answer in the story of Natalie Hampton, a teenage student in the United States. She has turned her personal experience of bullying into determination to support other students, to avoid marginalisation and enjoy school life. And she has achieved that with the help of technology.
Natalie’s story exemplifies how having a friend at school can make a difference. Moreover, how a difficult experience such as school bullying, could turn into a positive life purpose, and allow a person in pain to lead a different path. Let’s see how.
The experience of bullying
When the time came to attend middle school, Natalie could see that the other students had already formed groups of friends and there was no place for her. During lunch time, she would sit alone at the lunch table. She had no other choice. Her schoolmates would tell her openly and directly that she couldn’t sit with them. She was marginalised.
At some point, the other students started to tease her, and attack her. The school teachers couldn’t intervene. They were convinced that something she was doing was provoking aggressiveness against her. For two years, she would go through this difficult situation, which can leave deep scars in a young person’s soul.
When middle school was over, she changed school to attend high school. She had no prospects for friends. She spent the first day alone until a female student approached her to befriend her. That action made all the difference. Natalie wouldn’t be alone and marginalised again. There would be no more teasing – no more attack.
The first friend to make was the student who approached her on the first day of school. She went on to make more friends. Some of them were students who were alone and had no one to sit with during lunch time, at school. Every time she would see a student left alone, she would suggest that they sit with her friends and her.
The idea and the award
Natalie decided to help other students to avoid bullying in a positive way. Having attended specialised classes, she devised the Sit with Us mobile application that enables students to see who they can sit with at the lunch table and hence make plans for lunch and conversation. The application was a success and she started collaborating with organisations aiming to prevent bullying on a wider scale.
In 2017, MENSA Foundation for Education and Research presented Natalie with the annual Copper Black award “for the creative use of technology to deter bullying and, furthermore, for her work as an anti-bullying advocate.”
A positive message
In Natalie’s story, I can see a young person who has turned a difficult experience into her life purpose with positive outcomes for herself and the community. Once marginalised, she assumed action to develop meaningful relationships within and outside school. In a creative and innovative way she has achieved two things:
- Find her voice, make friends and create happy experiences at school for herself.
- Help students in other schools to avoid experiencing loneliness and isolation, and start communicating with their peers creatively, having fun.
I find this to be an inspiring story and a positive way to prevent school bullying. It takes a friend to make a difference.
This is what I can see in the picture I took at a local education institute. Someone conceived the idea of having the tree of friendship (to dendro tis filias) drawn on the wall. And encouraged the rest to leave their mark, join hands and share the message that friendship isn’t too elusive to be pursued.
Have a creative week
in the company of dear friends!
- MENSA Foundation. (2017). Natalie Hampton, 2017 Copper Black Award winner
- Paresky, P.B. (2017, 10 November). Meet the teen who discovered the secret of social capital