Tale of Two Clubs: Heroes and Cool Kids and MadCaps
Throughout every community, it can be argued that some of the most impactful and prevalent people are those with the least influence - the children. Although they are frequently underestimated and given the least say, it is they who will one day grow to take over as the decision-makers. Oftentimes, we grow up and forget what it truly felt like to be an impressionable child trying to make sense of the rapidly evolving world around them. At Clifton High School, that plight is no better understood than by the people who are on the cusp of leaving it or who may still be experiencing it - the students.
Within the high school exists a program based solely on educating the students of the Clifton middle schools through the guidance of the high school students. Heroes and Cool Kids is a non-profit organization based in New Jersey that extends to a multitude of schools across the state, including CHS where it has been established for close to a decade. At the beginning of the school year, potential “heroes,” as they are called, apply to be in the program and if accepted, go through a series of training sessions throughout the year to build character and leadership qualities for their three future visits to the sixth-graders of Woodrow Wilson and Christopher Columbus middle school. The club aims to make the members into mentors for the younger children, displaying what it means to be a model citizen and teaching them important life skills such as sportsmanship, bullying prevention, coping mechanisms, and substance abuse prevention through games and educational activities. To ensure the leaders get maximum reach and connect with the sixth-graders, the heroes work in groups of three to five, visiting the same class at each school each session. Jada Witter, a three-time hero at CHS, said she still remembers when the Heroes and Cool Kids came to her sixth-grade class.
“I thought so highly of them. We always had lessons about drugs and bullying, but never from students so close to our age. To be in their shoes now has been a really cool experience.” Not only does the program seek to leave a positive mark on the younger generations of Clifton, but on the heroes themselves as well. Witter says that seeing the children’s faces “light up” when the heroes enter the classroom for a visit and “seeing how much they care,” has been both a fulfilling and “humbling experience.”
Through a completely different method, CHS’s Madrigal singers, or the MadCaps as they are normally called, are hoping to make an impact on the youth of Clifton as well. MadCaps and choir director, Mr. Weismantel, maintains that the MadCaps group hopes to inspire, if not just simply entertain, the adolescents of the Clifton community through the artistry of music as the children are the “next ones coming up.” MadCaps is the top audition choir at Clifton High, having been formed several decades ago with a long and rich history of performing throughout not only the Clifton and New Jersey area but the entire East Coast. Each year, the MadCaps perform at various tree-lighting ceremonies and festive activities such as the annual Candyland event for the holidays, even performing alongside an elementary school choir last winter. This year, the choir group had the chance to sing their winter concert music, which included various Christmas carols and a compelling rendition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’, for both middle schools and several of the district’s elementary schools. Weistmantel stated, “Getting to interact with the kids is always a great time. This year we were even joined by Santa!” who happened to be a MadCaps bass singer filling in for old Saint Nick. He goes on to say that it's important, especially for the high school MadCap students, to work with the children of their town because “being an active member of the greater Clifton community is so wonderful,” stating that MadCaps are afforded a “beautiful opportunity to bring music to all grade levels… it is such a privilege and honor.”
“The kids are who we do it for,” Weismantel says, “There is not much that needs to be accomplished beyond enjoying the music that is being performed…that reward is enough. Though hopefully, they will join the choir one day!”
Both clubs, through the employment of high school students emerging from adolescence themselves, are striving to connect with the younger generations of Clifton, hoping to make a difference in their lives. Heroes and Cool Kids and MadCaps are keenly aware of the impact groups such as theirs can have on an individual in their childhood and the futures they can foster with their positive impacts. While kids may seem, and likely should be to some extent, quite oblivious to the world around them, it never stays that way for too long. What happens to them now will go on to heavily shape the people they will evolve into, people that will go on to become leaders, workers, fathers, sisters, and (as both clubs very much hope) up-standing human beings.
For more information about these clubs, you can email the advisors here: