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Long Beach kicker swaps helmet for homecoming tiara

Brooke Yellin celebrates her homecoming queen victory with

Brooke Yellin celebrates her homecoming queen victory with friend and teammate Chris Hall, the homecoming king, on Oct. 26. Credit: Long Beach Public Schools

Brooke Yellin raced from the football team’s halftime meeting back to the field, where she traded her helmet for a tiara and struggled to slip a sash and cloak over her bulky shoulder pads.

After a quick walk around the track with homecoming king Chris Hall — Yellin’s teammate and longtime friend — the pair stripped off their crowns and robes and got ready for the second half. Long Beach wound up beating H. Frank Carey High School 28-25, with Yellin converting two extra points.

“I was so focused on the game, I forgot I had other responsibilities.”

The senior kicker, who was elected homecoming queen by her classmates, was crowned at a pep rally the day before the Oct. 26 game.

“I was like, obviously it’s not the biggest deal in the world if I don’t win.” When she was announced as queen, she “freaked out.”

“My whole team jumped on me, it was great. It was, like, the best day of my life,” said Yellin, 17.

Her dad, Ian Yellin, was surprised but thrilled to find out his daughter had been crowned.

"She is the most anti-homecoming queen person you ever want to meet. From a young age it was very difficult to get her into a dress at any point in time other than a wedding," he said, adding that Brooke has always loved sports.

“It just shows the effect that she has on her fellow classmates and everyone around her and that you don’t have to be this stereotypical-type person to achieve anything in life,” he said.

Earlier in the season she became the first female in Long Beach’s history to convert an extra point.

“It’s nice because kids see me in the street and say, ‘That’s Brooke, that’s the kicker,’” she said.

She has been playing soccer since seventh grade, and finally decided to try out for football this season while still playing soccer.

“It was great having her there,” said Long Beach football assistant coach Ian “Rocky” Butler. “Once she started making some kicks and showing that she could do it she started being a little more vocal and talking to the guys. I mean, she was one of the guys at that point.”

She’s also a manager for the cheerleading team in the winter and president of the school’s Best Pals Club, where she spends time hanging out and playing board games with special needs students.

Yellin is eager to succeed, largely to fulfill the promises she made to her mother, Geri Yellin, who died in February 2018 at 47.

“My mom instilled in me at a young age that you have to work for everything you want,” she said. Her football number, 81, is a reminder of her mother, whose favorite number was 18.

Yellin said her mom, who was born with a heart condition and a lack of oxygen to her brain, wasn’t expected to live more than two weeks. Despite those health issues and later being diagnosed with dyslexia, she graduated from high school and later became a home health care assistant.

When her mother died, Yellin wanted to remember her in a special way.

“I don’t just want to sit here and go through the motions of life,” she remembers thinking at that time.

She visited freshman health classes and shared her mom’s story, emphasizing the value of education. She also founded a scholarship in her mother’s memory, which is awarded to one graduating senior at Long Beach who embodies the character of hard work and determination that her mother had.

She began fundraising for the scholarship one week after her mother’s death, and has since raised $3,000 by selling bracelets and collecting donations on GoFundMe, which has enabled her to award one $500 scholarship for each of the past two years.

“She’s just really outstanding, we’re going to really miss her when she graduates,” Long Beach vice principal Francine Newman said of Yellin. “She’s a special person.”

“My goal is to come back every year and give scholarships,” said Yellin, who wants to go to college in New York so she can stay close to her family and eventually become an adaptive physical education teacher. “That’s my number one goal: Keep on helping the community that helped me the most.”

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