Kansas student journalists headed to nation's capital

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PITTSBURG -- Six student journalists at Pittsburg High School and their teacher, Emily Smith, have been invited to the White House correspondents dinner as special guests after a story they published in March led to the resignation of their newly hired principal.

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PITTSBURG -- Six student journalists at Pittsburg High School and their teacher, Emily Smith, have been invited to the White House correspondents dinner as special guests after a story they published in March led to the resignation of their newly hired principal.

The story called into question the academic credentials of the new principal after both the district and local newspapers had missed the woman's suspicious credentials. Four days after the article appeared, the school board announced the principal's resignation.

News of the journalists' upcoming trip dribbled out throughout the day at Pittsburg High on Tuesday as teachers wandered into Smith's room and learned the news.

"Are you going?" asked Jared Braden, a tech worker at the school.

"It's all expenses paid," Smith said.

"Seriously, that's big," he said.

The six students and Smith will be the guests of the Huffington Post, which also is paying for their trip. It will be a quick one: They fly out on April 28 and return on April 30.

"Let me know if you want to get your hair done and all that," Smith told three of the students who worked on the story.

"It's like the Oscars. You can wear a cocktail dress, but she recommended a gown."

"Mine's a prom dress, is that OK?" asked one student.

The six students -- Trina Paul, Gina Mathew, Kali Poenitske, Maddie Baden, Patrick Sullivan and Connor Balthazor -- already have been interviewed on national programs such as "Good Morning America" as well as by the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Although the attention they received has died down somewhat, some accolades were still rolling in: Smith received a package of hats from CBS News on Tuesday as a thank-you for their appearance on the news show.

Several of the girls were excited that Emma Watson attended last year's dinner. But Paul, the lone senior in the group, was most excited about the possibility of seeing Kerry Washington, the star of "Scandal," whom she said she saw at the event last year on television.

She said her parents are buying her a special dress for the event.

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Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison

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