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Royal couple at last event on Calif tour

The Associated Press, Sunday, July 10, 2011, 1:17pm (PDT)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wrapped up their trip to Southern California on Sunday by visiting an inner-city school in downtown Los Angeles's notorious Skid Row area and attending a job fair for veterans.

Prince William and his wife Catherine were welcomed to the Inner City Arts academy by six elementary-aged children holding a welcome banner while a crowd of about 150 people cheered and looked on, some waving British and American flags.

Kate, as she is better known, wore a navy-and-white crochet top and a white pleated skirt, both by U.K. fashion company Whistles.

Cynthia Harnisch, the academy's president and chief executive officer, spoke to the couple about Skid Row and the challenges of poverty and homelessness faced by many students at the school.

The duke and duchess were then escorted to a visual arts studio where they donned art smocks and sat at easels to paint.

A group of teenage dancers then performed for the couple, who appeared to enjoy the show.

Fifteen-year-old Iliana Samaniego, who was in the troupe, said she was thrilled when William gave a double thumbs up and told them "brilliant" at the end of the performance.

"Just seeing the smile on Catherine, it was great," said Samaniego, one of the 16 dancers.

Skid Row, with its intractable poverty and largely homeless population, could hardly stand in starker contrast to the more glitzy parts of Southern California that the couple has seen on their whirlwind visit.

On Saturday, William scored four goals at a charity polo match and earlier Sunday he attended a swanky reception to raise money for Tusk Trust, an African wildlife conservation group.

Their final stop before departing for the U.K. was with the group ServiceNation: Mission Serve, which aims to help veterans find jobs.

Inside the event's venue, Studio 15 on the Sony Pictures Studio lot in Culver City, giant U.S. and British flags hung behind a stage where the smiling duke addressed a cheering crowd.

"All the companies and employers taking part today are providing opportunities which mean something very immediate and personal to us," he said. "Catherine and I both have friends back in Britain who could benefit from a brilliant initiative like this."

The soundstage hosted a job fair for military veterans, with employers such as Mattel, Walmart and entertainment industry companies such as Warner Bros. and CBS manning booths. The companies must have jobs in order to participate in the fair, said Ross Cohen, Mission Serve's director.

Cohen, who served in Afghanistan and was an army paratrooper, events such as the job fair were crucial for returning veterans. Unemployment rates for young vets and their spouses are as high as 25 percent, Cohen said.

Kelly York, a 23-year Air Force veteran, came to the fair hoping to find a job that will allow her to remain in the Los Angeles area when she retires early next year.

"I'm sure that they had 50 million places they could go and see," York said. "The fact that they even take five minutes to stop here and say something to the veterans, that's huge."

After arriving at the event and speaking with some veterans, the duke and duchess plan to help prepare care packages for children of deployed service members and then depart Los Angeles.

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Associated Press writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.

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Follow Watkins at http://www.twitter.com/thomaswatkins

Follow Hoag at http://www.twitter.com/christinahoag

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