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Christine Nott and Stephanie Lugo like to read and write because it provides the juniors from Harlingen High School South with a creative outlet, they said.

Nott and Lugo were state finalists this year for the national Letters About Literature contest, earning $50 gift cards to Target. The contest asked high school students to find and read books that inspired or personally helped them, the girls said. Then, they wrote letters to their book’s author explaining the book’s impact.

“My letter was about true beauty inside a person,” said Nott, who read “Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast” by Robin McKinley. “Bell was always my favorite princess, and I’ve always liked the theme of inner beauty.”

Although they did not advance to the national competition, Nott and Lugo were pleasantly surprised with the accolade of being named a state finalist, they said.

“Their letters were selected from over 3,300 letters submitted,” Vaughn said. “I am very proud of these two girls and look forward to challenging my students with the assignment again next year.”

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