On an Aug. 30th visit to Montford Middle School, Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State University, asked Bo Paske if he could sit with him. Paske, a student with autism, was sitting alone eating lunch.
“I asked if I could sit next to him, and he said, ‘Sure, why not?’ ” Rudolph said to Orlando Sentinel.
Paske’s mom, Leah Paske, posted a video of her son and Rudolph eating together and stated on her Facebook post, “I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”
Later, Rudolph gave Paske a personalized FSU jersey, which Rudolph later wore when he played in a come-back game against Ole Miss. Rudolph — maybe by fate, but most likely from good karma — caught the winning touchdown pass.
Paske is just one of many students who sits alone at lunch. But people like Rudolph as well as 16-year-old Natalie Hampton are trying to change this.
Hampton, who was bullied throughout middle school, created a new app called SitWithUs. On her website, she talks about sitting alone during lunch, and from her experience and embarrassment, she created SitWithUs as a way to make sure others do not suffer as she had to. SitWithUs, which launched earlier this month, tries to stop bullying by helping to include students throughout a school.
Students are able to become “Ambassadors” at their school and be the ones to invite others to sit with them. Ambassadors can make an “open lunch,” which signals people with the app to go and sit with them. It is an amazing way to help others meet each other and not make students feel alone and isolated. All one has to do is download the app and the instructions are right there.
Recently, Hampton said in an interview with National Public Radio, “This way it’s very private. It’s through the phone. No one else has to know. And you know that you’re not going to be rejected once you get to the table.”
By sitting with Paske, Rudolph displayed that it is not difficult to make a new friend. After Paske got his special visit, more and more kids wanted to sit with him. Taking the first step and helping others is important. Will you be the change in your community?