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Huntington students to be first lady's guests in D.C.

Last year, a group of advanced fashion students from Huntington High School impressed first lady Michelle Obama with a set of original designs for an inauguration gown they sent her.

Obama wrote them a letter, praising them for their creativity and hard work.

The first lady recently contacted them again - this time to invite them to Washington, D.C., Tuesday to be her guests at a special ceremony in which the gown she wore will be inducted into the Smithsonian First Ladies Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The Huntington students will be the only school group in the country who will be attending the event, according to Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).

"This experience for some of our students will be completely life-changing," said teacher Kristin Singer, adding that the class going to Washington consists of sophomores, juniors and seniors, and two alumni.

Student Allison Wieland, 16, said, "It's overwhelming. When I found out it took me a little. I was, like, 'Wait, is this a joke? What?' "

In Obama's letter last year, she praised the students and described the dress designs as "elegant, creative works, and I would be proud to wear any of your creations."

Israel said receiving rewards for hard work - such as next week's trip - is important. "This isn't just about fashion, it's not just about designing dresses, it's about creativity and teaching," he said.

On Tuesday, Israel said, he will insert a speech into the Congressional Record about Huntington's program, its teachers and students. "For the rest of history, people will be able to open up the Congressional Record to Tuesday, March 9, and read all about the wonderful contributions," he said.

Student Meleika Amos, 17, described Obama as "the new Jackie Kennedy of our time" and said she designed her gown as a "glamorous" classic off-white dress. "She's a style icon," Amos said. "Everyone watches what she does, what she wears . . . listens to what she says. Just like Jackie Kennedy, and that's what I wanted to portray."

Monique Moreno, mother of student Fatima Moreno, said the trip will be a great experience for her daughter. "Mrs. Obama is an icon. She represents not only the people but women in general," Monique said.

Richard Gray, who said he designed his gown in red to focus all eyes on Obama, said the experience will be a huge honor. Fashion, Gray said, is the "ultimate way to express who you are."

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