Shiloh Baptist Church has always encouraged academic excellence among its youth, and for the past 33 years members have been backing up their encouragement with cash.

Sunday, the church at 9th and P streets NW awarded nine high school seniors and Howard University divinity students more than $8,000 in scholarships. Another $2,000 will be awarded in May.

"This is going to make a big difference to my mother and me," said Maria Samuda, 18, who won two top awards totaling $1,350. Samauda, the top student in her McKinley High School class, hopes to use the money toward a degree in mathematics at Cornell or John Hopkins universities, where she expects first-year expenses of $8,000.

Karen Johnny, 17, said the $350 merit award she won will help pay for living expenses next fall. Johnny, now at Georgetown Day School, plans to study math and engineering at the Univeristy of Maryland.

An aspiring television newsman, Timothy Nixon won a $500 award for academic achievement. But the St. John's College High School senior said the award will barely dent his tuition at Princeton University or North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University, both of which have accepted him.

A 1978 scholarship recipient, Soraya Dunningan, now a sophomore at Howard University, said she didn't realize the full value of the award until well into her freshman year.There's more than money involved, she said.

"At times I felt like giving up," she told the congregation, "but I could feel your support . . . it told me, 'Don't give up!'"

In addition to the high school students, three Howard University Divinity School students who work as interns at Shiloh were awarded $1,500 each.

According to the Rev. Kenneth Burke, minister of education, most of the students also have applied for various outside scholarships, basic grants and student loans to make ends meet next fall.

Students are awarded the scholarships accoridng to academic achievement, Burke said, but the largest award, which will be announced in May, is given to the student who shows not only a "solid" academic record but the greatest financial need.

The Shiloh scholarship program has ballooned since its inception in 1945. Burke said it took two years to raise the initial $150 scholarship awarded in 1947.

Funding for the awards now comes from a combination of endowments, requests and individual contributions, Burke said, including one from Phaon Golman, the first recipient.