New app “Sit With Us” to strengthen WHS community
The buzz of conversation, the clatter of plastic lunch trays, and scraping of cafeteria chairs are among the many friendly sounds of lunch. But for some high school students, lunch is the scariest part of the school day. The prospect of sitting alone, and being seen sitting alone, can easily be a source of fear and embarrassment.
“Sit With Us” is an app based movement that addresses this issue and strives to build stronger communities, starting with the lunch room. Beginning this school year, WHS teachers and administrators have been working to introduce “Sit With Us” to the student body. Junior Ashanti Malcolm-Bates said she believes “Sit With Us” is an innovative first step towards building a stronger school community.
“As a student, I appreciate the inclusivity “Sit With Us” encourages,” Malcolm-Bates commented. “This movement is a clear example of student efforts to make a change.”
Steps to introduce “Sit With Us” to WHS was spearheaded by special education teacher Allison Bees. After reaching out to students who have expressed interest in the app, Bees realized that being alone is not specific to a certain age group or gender.
“It starts in middle school. If we were to properly address this issue early on in high school, we would really be able to see the long term benefits,” Bees mentioned.
When Bees looked at the numbers of responses from those students, she fully understood the need for “Sit With Us” in the school community.
“It’s not a couple of students who feel lonely. In a small school like ours, fifteen to twenty students is a large number who don’t feel comfortable eating in the cafeteria,” Bees explained. “It’s pretty easy for people that already have friends, or a group of friends, to not really notice those people who tend to be off on their own,” Bees said.
Health and Wellness teacher Danielle Cooper commented on the movement “Sit With Us” offers and how this is an opportunity for students to connect with others.
“This is an opportunity for new students or returning students to get to know kids just by having friendly conversation and alleviating some of the anxiety of having to approach a table,” Cooper said.
To initiate this program, Bees reached out to guidance to find students to become ambassadors for the app and received a list of about 50 students of all ages and genders. In addition, Bees hosted a get-to-know-you party the last Friday before February break.
“We wanted the ambassadors to put faces and names together and meet other students who aren’t feeling so included. The hope is that then those students could start looking out for each other,” Bees added.
Since students are now more aware of the application, Bees said that she anticipates more students will get involved.
“I hope students are going to sign up for the app, download it, register as an ambassador, and with that be motivated to make our school a safer and more inclusive space,” Bees said.
Bees said she believes that “Sit With Us” brings out the best in the students, and shows that students care about our school community.
“Looking at the numbers, in the short span of time we reached out to students to become ambassadors, two to three times the number of students have already voiced interest in ambassadorship than students who feel alone. That says a lot [about our students],” Bees said.
Furthermore, Assistant Principal Kelly Flynn is optimistic that the WHS community will benefit from using the app.
“We all get caught up in our day, we have all of these things [to do], and sometimes just pausing and speaking to someone or being kind makes a big difference,” Flynn said.