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Hughson students given taste of Hollywood style hip-hop
They showed up to learn about hip-hop dance. But when Jennifer Luna walked into the afterschool class with credentials from Hollywood, 25 Hughson Elementary School students quizzed the Turlock woman about working with Miley Cyrus on the set of Hannah Montana.

Luna is volunteering to teach the "Step It Up!" class, one of five classes offered in the Hughson Elementary After School Program. After showing a clip from her appearance on the Disney Channel's "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" - in which she spoke and embraced actress Brenda Song - Luna had students limbering up and working on their hip-hop moves.

The class seemed to be a big hit with the 23 girls and two boys who showed up Wednesday afternoon.

"It's awesome because we get to dance," said eight-year-old Cayle Lemings.

Luna has found hip-hop dance to be "so free spirited and fun.

"With all the big dance groups out there right now I think that's what makes it so popular," said Luna. "It goes along with the music that people hear on the radio today."

Luna, 24, graduated from Turlock High School in 2002 and went to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. Jennifer found small speaking parts on TV shows including Cold Case and Half and Half. She told students that she regrets that her scene on Disney's Hannah Montana was cut from final production but noted that Miley Cyrus is a very friendly person.

Interested in singing at a young age - Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson were her inspiration - Luna polished up her voice talents in choir and musical theater. Between TV roles, Jennifer performed at clubs such as the White Lotus on Hollywood Boulevard as well as Tu Tu Tango and BB Kings at Universal Studios. She is currently working on a debut CD with a blend of Neo-Soul, Latin R&B with a hip hop vibe.

Luna recently moved back to Turlock for family reasons but misses the big city.

"It's kind of cool to come back home and do something like this," said Luna. "It's really good."

The Hughson program has been around two years now and provides services for approximately 250 students. Funding comes from the 21st Century and ASES grants. To participate, students attend a mandatory homework hour between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. If they're not in Luna's class they can join four other clubs: Little Picasos, All Things Gaming, Soccer All Stars and The Green Thumbs.

Luna came to volunteer for the Hughson program through a friendshipship with Gilbert Valenzuela, who works for the program.

"He does a lot for kids and I'm a big fan of kids," said Luna. "I coached gymnastics for kids for a few months out in Oakdale and I just think they're great so anything I can do to help out."

Valenzuela said he's happy to have his friend volunteering her time in Hughson, adding that she is "a true real life role model."