FOR THE KIDS : Community Youths Sing Out Their Message of Hope for Future : Oxnard children's chorus spreads goodwill through their melodies at nursing homes, hospitals and civic functions.


The Children's Activity Center in Oxnard is looking for a few good kids. Kids down on drugs, alcohol and smoking. Kids high on singing and helping others.

The center started a community youth chorus a year ago for kids under 12, and in April the group got a taste of show biz. Ten of them performed in Long Beach in a get-together sponsored by America Sings!, a national youth organization.

Now the center is broadening the chorus. Kids 6 to 18 years are encouraged to get involved. And, the chorus is again hitting the road--to spread goodwill through song at nursing homes, hospitals and civic functions.

The chorus, now numbering about 20, is already planning to perform at Ventura County's Great American Smoke Out celebration in November, said choral director Jarrel Hyden.

"We'll sing for anyone who asks," said Hyden, who also directs the chorus at Rio del Valle Junior High School in Oxnard.

What they'll get is music with a positive message and hope for the future, she said. It's music that promotes self-esteem, helping others, and encourages kids to stay off drugs and other vices.

If kids feel good about themselves, she said, then they won't turn to other phony feel-good vices. Already she has seen a change in the attitude of some of the children who are in the chorus.

"It's an attitude of wanting to do something positive to help others," Hyden said.

Many of the kids in the chorus are from lower income families, she said. The center is a nonprofit organization that operates as a drop-in day-care and recreational center.

On a recent Tuesday night, 14 girls--some high school age and some barely old enough to read--showed up for practice at the center.

Hyden, using a small electric keyboard, warmed them up with some silly scale exercises ("I like jelly beans. I like jelly in my belly").

Then it was on to the song, "When I Grow Up," which encourages kids to strive for whatever career they want--doctor, computer analyst, barber. The song isn't totally serious. Bum is on the list.

They moved on to a feel-good song: "I'm so lucky to be me; I'm a good kid, yes siree." Then a rap song about bad kids: "Ahh, huh, they're not real friends."

Hyden teaches the kids some moves to go along with the music. With new kids joining, the reassembled group isn't polished yet. They've practiced together only twice.

"From the sounds of them, though, they'll sing well," Hyden said. Her goal is to take the chorus, along with her school chorus, to the America Sings! show in San Antonio, Tex., next April.


If you haven't zoned out on dinosaurs by now, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has an ongoing exhibit of realistic-looking dinosaurs that move and roar.

Called "Dinosaurs Unearthed," the show runs through Sept. 6. There are 10 dinosaurs that operate by robotics in a setting made to look natural. One is even set up so kids can operate the knobs that move the arm and head.

The dinosaurs are smaller than their namesakes, but that won't matter to the kids. Visitors can also "dig" for fossils in the dinosaur lab and watch 15-minute films on the great ones.

The museum, 2559 Puesta del Sol Road in Santa Barbara, is open daily 9 a.m to 5 p.m and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Cost is $5 for adults, $3 for children 2-12 years. For information, 682-4711.


The community youth chorus, sponsored by the Children's Activity Center, meets Tuesdays, 7 to 9 p.m., at the center, 701 S. G St., Oxnard. Cost is $3 per class, plus a $10 registration fee. For information, 486-5613.

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