The D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens/Riggs Bank Scholarship Program is looking for entrants to its eighth annual essay contest.

The scholarship program is open to high school seniors at public, private and parochial schools in the District and gives awards ranging from $50 savings bonds to $2,000 scholarships.

In addition to providing students with an opportunity to contribute to their post-secondary school tuition and strengthen their research, writing and oral skills, the program also seeks to raise public awareness and acceptance of mentally retarded people, including the concept of neighborhood group homes for the mentally retarded.

Last year, 314 students from 17 Washington high schools participated in the contest that addressed the topic: "Mentally Retarded Persons in My Neighborhood: Let's Make it Work." The winner was Shaun Patterson, then a senior at Roosevelt High School. Patterson is a student at the Maryland Drafting Institute.

This year, materials have been distributed to 31 high schools.

Entry forms are available at District schools or through the D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens at 636-2950 or Jane Petty of the Riggs Bank Corporate Community Relations Department at 835-6854. Information packets are also available at all Riggs branches.

This year's topic is: "I believe an effective plan for increasing acceptence of persons with mental retardation would be . . . . "

The essays will be judged on accuracy of mental retardation information, originality, practicality of ideas, continuity of thought, use of proper mechanics and an organized expression of ideas.

Representatives of the association, Riggs Bank and public and private schools will select the winning essays.

Those students finishing either first or second in at-large or school groups will be eligible for the citywide semifinal contest. From this group, 10 finalists will be chosen.

Finalists will make a brief oral presentation May 5 to the judging committee. First, second and third place winners will recieve $2,000, $1,500 and $1,000, respectively.

Students must have their essays postmarked on or before March 15 and mailed to Riggs National Bank, Corporate Community Relations, 800 17th St. NW, Fourth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006.