Praise showered over the six Pittsburg, Kan., high school students who uncovered shady credentials of a newly hired principal, culminated Saturday night with them standing in a room full of national journalists, celebrities and Washington elite, amid rousing applause.
The six high school journalists were guests of the Huffington Post at one of the biggest Washington, D.C., events of the year; the White House Correspondents’ Dinner held Saturday at the Washington Hilton.
After touring the city and an exclusive tour of the Newseum by the the museum’s executive director, students walked the red carpet into what is typically one of Washington’s hottest events, where journalists rub shoulders with Hollywood celebrities, athletes and top Washington House administration.
After The Star wrote a story about the student journalists who wrote a story in the high school newspaper — The Booster Redux — national news organizations around the globe began reaching out to the students about their investigation and reporting which led to the newly hired principal, Amy Robertson, resigning from the $93,000-a-year job.
Their story questioned the legitimacy of the private college — Corllins University — where Robertson, who had been hired March 6 to lead Pittsburg High School, got her master’s and doctorate degrees years ago.
The students’ story reported that the U.S. Department of Education could not find evidence of Corllins in operation, and they found several articles referring to Corllins as a diploma mill — where people can buy a degree, diploma or certificates. The Corllins website didn’t even work.
Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum said when he learned the students would be in the nation’s capitol he invited them to tour the news museum.
“The work we do here is all about the First Amendment and all about the value and meaning of a free press,” Policinski said. “I can’t think of anything better to illustrate how that can function than when you see people at the start of their career using the power and duty of a free press to hold government officials accountable.”
During their Washington visit, students also toured The Washington Post and were asked to take over Teen Vogue Snapchat and the Huffington Post’s Instagram.
The story students wrote earlier this month may have been the first Redux story to gain so much attention but it wasn’t the first one done by the student newspaper to get kudos for a job well done.
The Wichita Eagle reported that last year after a student was killed in a car accident, student journalists at the high school interviewed the dead student’s girlfriend, who was in the car during the accident.
That story won second place out of 922 entries at the national high school journalism convention. Pittsburg High School journalism teacher Emily Smith said she expects the student’s latest work to also be award winning but for now students are basking in the spotlight of the global attention they are getting.