Nine District high school students were among the 21 winners of cash prizes in High School Graphics V. a biennial competition for young printmakers sponsored by the National Collection of Fine Arts and the Washington Print Club.

The awards were presented this week at the museum, where more than 150 prints by artists from local high schools are being exhibited.

Also honored Sunday as "people who have contributed to printmaking art history," were Adelyn Breeskin, an NCFA consultant for 20th century painting and sculpture, and James Wells, a Howard University professor emeritus, and an active printmaker.

The show, (at NCFA through June 12), is unusual because it is composed entirely of work by young artists and because the students themselves played a large part in planning it.

Theresa Grana, associate curator for secondary education at NCFA, said that the exhibition, part of the museum's ongoing Discover Graphics Program, "comes out of the museum's interest in promoting printmaking in schools."

"Many kids have different places to show - the Hecht Company and poster contests - but we feel kids need a career emphasis," Grana said. "We have kids working on various committees, a few students working on actual design . . . planning the exhibit even down to the title of the show."

The poster design for the show was done by Mariko Kawaguchi of Duke Ellington High School, and Rob Evans from Walter Johnson High School.

Paige Perry, 17, a senior at National Cathedral School, won first prize for her etching "Reflection." The ethcing was presented to James Wells.

Perry worked on the committee that produced the show's catalog and said, "it was great . . . I wish I could do it for the rest of my life. It was like seeing the inside view of everything. You never realize you need electricians, people to do the plexiglass and to clean and to paint. You got to see how a museum works."

The NCFA's 6-year-old Discover Graphics program is conducted through local high school art departments. During the school year, teachers select students who go to the museum for four 6-hour sessions of printmaking techniques and tours of the museum.

Discover Graphics also conducts an outreach program in which an etching press and materials are circulated among area schools. Museum art apprentices also visit the schools and give lecture demonstrations.

"The workshops are really fun," said Claire Mays, a Wilson High School senior who won a Lunn Gallery Award for her intaglio "Nascent Sea Horror."

"Not only can you do a lot more than at school - you have six hours instead of 45 minutes - but everything is well organized," she said.

Following the awards ceremony, students in the Discover Graphics program conducted a demonstration of printmaking for some of the more than 100 persons who attended.

Prizes for the competition were provided by the Washington Print Club and several local galleries.

Among those presenting the awards were Darryl Rubenstein, president of the Washington Print Club, Harry Lunn of the Lunn Gallery, and Chris Middendorf of the Middendorf Gallery.

Other District winners were Pat Dews, 17, H.D. Woodson High School, Jonathan Norman, 19, Spingarn High School; Lewis Tait Jr., 17, Maret School; Christopher Smith, 18, Duke Ellington School of the Arts; John Smith, 16, Cardozo High School; Ali Muslim, Woodrow Wilson High School, and Pamela Anne Harris, 18, Woodson High School.