LA elementary students teach ambassadors a thing or two about diplomacy

Call it a United Nations summit of sorts in the heart of Southern California. About 50 ambassadors from all over the world are here to learn about the culture of L.A. Ambassadors paid a visit to the Inner-City Arts school in downtown L.A.

It’s easy to see the true diplomats at this gathering.

More than a hundred creative and inquisitive LA Unified students charmed dozens of world leaders as they toured the arts campus on Kholer Street in the heart of Skid Row. They passed through hallways that displayed children's drawings and saw how kids used a high-tech animation room.

Fijian ambassador Winston Thompson gazed at self-portraits that students were painting in the arts room.

"To see this sort of activity for young students, to broaden their exposure as youngsters in the creativity of what there is, is really impressive," Thompson said.

Outside, in the playground, fourth-grader Devin Morales of nearby Malabar Elementary School showed ambassadors how he and a few of his classmates were building a tall structure from large toy sticks.

Malawian Ambassador Steve Matenje asked if Morales wanted to design houses in the future.

”Yes," Morales said proudly. "Crazy houses, crooked and zig-zags ... maybe if I could build weird trees some day.”

Matenje smiled.

"Coming from Africa where opportunities like these are limited, many kids don’t have access to good education and it’s good that I’ve come here to see what they’re doing," he said.

The ambassadors are on a three-day visit to L.A. through “Experience America.” The State Department program organizes trips to cities beyond the nation’s capital to give diplomats a greater understanding of America.

United States Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall runs the program and led the group’s visit to Inner-City Arts.

“We may be just moments away from Skid Row," Marshall said. "But I have to say that the second we walked through this gate, we are in paradise on this over an acre facility and what they have done here is truly remarkable.”

Fourth grade student Ariel Silva visits this facility twice a week along with her classmates at Malabar Elementary. She told the leaders why she loved Inner-City Arts.

“Art is freedom. You can do whatever you want. There’s no ‘draw this, draw that.’ It’s freedom," said Silva, spoken like a true diplomat.

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