WOODBRIDGE - In order for a composition to be considered award worthy, it must have just the right balance of description, depth and feeling. That's exactly the combination that earned one local teen's prose to receive recognition at a recent award ceremony.

On May 4, Julia Wong, a junior at Hopkins School in New Haven, received the IMPAC Literary Award at a ceremony held at Southern Connecticut State University. The teen was among dozens of students from the greater New Haven and Middlesex area who competed in the event, which featured works in both poetry and prose.

"I was extremely surprised and very honored when they called my name," explained the 16-year-old, whose untitled essay focused on the lifelong relationship she has shared with her aging grandfather. Walks along the beach, special moments and growing older together in time are some of the highlights featured in the piece, which earned her a check for $1,000 and a chance to compete in a statewide competition next month.

The IMPAC Connecticut State University Literary Award for young writers trust is a non-profit foundation and a unique public-private partnership which gives 18, $1000 prizes to teenage writers through out Connecticut. The program is a model that several states are considering emulatging. IMPAC created the award to promote creative thinking.

While Wong admits writing has always been one of her favorite subjects, her skills were recently put to the challenge earlier this year after enrolling in an English-11 writing course. The extensive curriculum requires students to complete a variety of assignments in all types of writing.

"There are some weeks when I'm responsible for writing three different papers", Wong said. "It's a lot of hard work but at the same time, it's also a lot of fun."

According to Donna Fasano, who has been teaching English at Hopkins since 1976, Wong's unique writing style instantly captured the attention of her classmates, as well as her own.

"Julia's work is very special. It's simple yet extremely powerful. It's the type of work that once you read it, you never forget it," said Fasano, who encouraged Wong to submit entries and take part in the competition. "In all of the years that I have been teaching, Julia is one of the best writers I have ever seen."

Wong isn't the only member of her family who shares a gift for the written word. Her mother Susan is employed as a freelance writer and her sister Alice was once the editor of Hopkins' Literary Magazine.

Aside from writing, Wong also plays defense on her school's varsity hockey team and enjoys playing the guitar. Though she has not yet decided on where she'll be attending college in the fall of 2001, she said that Yale and Amherst are two of her top choices. Her major is also undecided at this point.

"Journalism is a possibility but I want to explore many different options before I make that final decision," explained Wong, a native of New York City, who spent her early childhood years growing up in Cincinnati. Five years ago, she moved to Woodbridge with her mother, father, two older sisters and younger brother.

On June 1, Wong's prose will be judged once again, this time in a statewide competition during a ceremony held at the Litchfield Inn. Among those scheduled to attend is Wally Lamb, author of "She's come undone" and "I know this much is true". Lamb has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and is recommended by the talk show legend as a favorite author in her popular book club series.

If selected as the winner, Wong will receive a second check for $1,000, which will go toward