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Yanks applaud Highbridge super teens

Mathew Vargas is shooting a film to combat homophobia. Trevor Brown is a junior counselor at the Woodycrest Center for Human Development.

Robert Cortijo has crooned at Carnegie Hall. Gabriela Breton sorts donations at World Vision, a non-profit agency. Daniel Silvera is a Gloria Benfield Foundation scholar.

The New York Yankees acknowledged Vargas, Brown, Cortijo, Breton and Silvera on Tuesday, January 27 at a Community Board 4 general meeting. Each talented teen received a $500 check and the ball club’s Youth Leadership Award.

“CB 4 is in the Yankees’ backyard,” said club ambassador Rocky Halsey. “We think it’s important to recognize kids in our community, especially those who take the time to help others.”

Vargas, 16, joined the New Settlement Bronx Helpers last April to fulfill an All Hallows High School service requirement. But community problem-solving is no chore, he said. The Helpers battle discrimination; art is Vargas’ weapon of choice.

“I love it,” Vargas said. “We’re preparing a film. We want to raise awareness about racism and heterosexism. Some people think heterosexism is a joke. It’s not. If you’re gay, you should be accepted, not neglected.”

Vargas volunteers up to 12 hours a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Helpers staff nominated him for the Yanks prize. The Helpers work out of Highbridge.

“I feel honored to accept this award,” Vargas said. “It was a surprise!”

Cortijo, 15, hitched up with Highbridge Voices ten years ago. His older brother, Adolfo also sings. Cortijo spends time at the Highbridge Community Food Pantry.

He was one of 400 NYC public high school students to perform Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at Carnegie Hall last October. Cortijo attends Lehman High School.

“Any youth in Community District 4, any youth in this borough, that understands the benefit of community service is terrific,” said CB4 chair Lee Ezell. “These are the kids we need to shout about. These are the future leaders of tomorrow.”

Breton, 16, is a Lieutenant in the 44th Precinct Explorers. She wore a pressed police uniform to CB4’s January 27 meeting.

The Explorers participate in park cleanup and volunteer at World Vision in the south Bronx. Breton, a Samuel Gompers High School junior, will apply to John Jay College and hopes to enter the United States Secret Service.

“The Explorers has taught me discipline,” Breton said. “It keeps me entertained, and out of the streets.”

44th Precinct police officer Hilda Estrella nominated Breton for the ball club’s reward.

“She’s been with me for five years,” Estrella said. “And has worked her way up the ranks. Gabriela is very quiet, but as an Explorer she speaks out more.”

Brown, 16, sits on Woodycrest’s youth council. He’s the council’s only male member. Brown will hold onto his $500.

“I’m not sure how to spend it,” he said.

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