Twenty-three District elementary students received awards, certificates and a total of $1,300 in prizes this week as the winners of citywide essay contest, "A Special City Needs Special People."

In the third annual contest sponsored by the national capital Law League, formerly the Lawyers Wives of D.C. three first-place winners each received $100 savings bonds and 20 runners-up each received $50 savings bonds. An awards ceremony attended by teachers, parents and friends was held at City Council chambers Tuesday, Law Day, which also was the date of the special election to fill two D.C. City Council seats and a school board seat.

As political candidates waited to see whether they would win a "special" place in city government, the sixth grade essayists expressed their own views about special people and their city.

The three first-place winners described their own specialness.

"I'm special because I know I'm loved in my family," said David Diamond, 11. "And I know how to ski very well and I play the violin pretty well."

I know I'm loved by my family and I have my friends," added Lisa Glover, 12. "There are so many things to be special about."

In a whispery voice, Barbara Cox, 11, shared similar views. "I'm special and everybody can be special if they know and think they're special."

The winners and their teachers received commendation certificates at the ceremony. In addition, the first prize winners and their teachers were honored at a separate luncheon hosted by the law league.

At the ceremonies this week, the awards were presented to students by D.C. Superior Court Judge William S. Thompson, who said he has been associated with the contest since it began.

"We need students like this," said Thompson. "This is the International Year of the Child, as well as Law day. It gives them food for thought, scholarship and hopefully they will continue their work."

Judges for the contest were Mrs. Thurgood Marshall and Mrs. Potter Stewart, wives of two U.S. Supreme Court justices, and Mrs. Paul Gomory. Mrs. Fred S. Whisenhunt and Mrs. Jacob Gordon, wives of three local attorneys. The savings bonds were contributed by local attorneys.

Students at approximately 130 elementary schools participated in the contest, said Jean E. Gordon, coordinator of the event. Gordon, an artist and former volunteer with the juvenile division of the D.C. Superior Court said she began the contest three years ago to help District youngsters develop a sense of pride in themselves and their city.

The results of her efforts were best evidenced in the praise she received from the students and the excerpts from their essays.

"You have to be trusted; to be nice and kind to people. You can help our city by helping the crippled, the blind and the sick," wrote Barbara Cox. "But first you have to be special to yourself. You can't depend on someone else in life. Depend on someone? No. Depend on yourself."

"People do not only have to clean up the neighborhood but they have to clean up their lives in such a way that they will not make the people around them miserable," wrote Amy Leland.

"I feel special because I know my family believes in me. Everyone should have someone in responsibility. That is something everyone must work on," wrote Lasonia Harrison.

"As people of Washington, we must try to be good citizens and watch our conduct," wrote David Walker. "Since we live here we must set an example of our country."

"We are this city's future," wrote Trinette A. Jones. "If we don't strive to do our best and don't take pride in our work, this city will fall tremendously."

Runners-up in the contest were Amy Leland, Sherry Wilson, Janice Morton, Sophonia McKeiver, Shirleen Young, Trinette A. Jones, Jennifer Mcginnis, Teresa Atchinson, Janice Tate, Kimberley Kelly, LaJuana C. McKethean, Lasonia Harrison, Regina Boyce, Lyon Jewett, Robert Jones, Marquita Moye, Cara Woodson, Lisa Hawkins, Nichelle Ridley, and Karen Lynn Maze. CAPTION: Picture, First Place winners in the National Capital Law League essay contest; from left, Lisa Glover, David Diamond and Barbara Cox. William S. Thompson and Jean Gordon are in back row. By Craig Herndon-The Washington Post