UPPER WEST SIDE — A sixth grader from a local middle school is one of 15 contestants to appear this year on "Jeopardy!" Kids Week in an episode airing Monday, fulfilling a dream he's harbored for years.
Cerulean Ozarow, 11, who is a student at The Anderson School, a public gifted and talented K-8 school on West 77th Street, said he first developed a passion for the show as a 7-year-old.
"I had always wanted to be on 'Jeopardy!,'" said Cerulean. "It was the first time I did something that makes me unique."
Cerulean was selected to travel to Los Angeles for a taping at Sony Studios this past October after making it through two rounds of auditions — one online and one in person — in New York City, he said.
The five Kids Week episodes, featuring 15 kids between the ages of 10 and 12, will begin airing Monday. For each of the five episodes taped, a contestant faced two other contestants, Cerulean said.
At stake is $1,000 for third place, $2,000 for second place, and at least $15,000 for first place, with possibly more if a player makes smart wagers.
The sixth grader's Anderson School classmates and teachers are all tuning in to WABC on Monday at 7 p.m. to watch him, said Principal Jodi Hyde.
"He is a brilliant boy who soaks up information like a sponge. That, joined with his vibrant personality, make it easy to see why 'Jeopardy!' chose him," Hyde wrote in an email.
Excitement in the school and among his friends and family is building because Cerulean has been sworn to secrecy about the results of his episode, he said.
Before he'd ever considered appearing on the show, Cerulean's strong interest prompted him to play "Jeopardy!" online, and to create his own versions of the game for his friends, said his mother, Rosy Rosenkrantz, who lives in Park Slope and shares custody of Cerulean with her ex-partner.
"He fell madly in love with 'Jeopardy!'. He loves information," said Rosenkrantz, who tapes every episode for her son to watch when he has free time on weekends.
Cerulean juggles his passion for the show with school, homework, and piano and drama lessons. He loves the show's fast pace and the way it revolves around facts, he said.
During the application process, which Cerulean completed last January, Rosenkrantz and her ex-partner were relieved to see that their son was enjoying the process and not putting too much pressure on himself.
"That was the best thing for us as parents — to see that he wasn’t going to be totally devastated," Rosenkrantz said.
And just as the family was beginning to think that Cerulean hadn't made the cut, they got a call in June that he had been selected.
"[Cerulean] was shocked and then he started crying," Rosenkrantz recalled when his mothers broke the news to him. "He said 'I can’t believe it. He said 'I’m so scared, but I’m so happy.'"
Cerulean thought he hadn't performed that well on the written test, a portion of the application that accompanies participating in a mock version of the show along with an interview.
"I was really happy and really surprised. I was really overwhelmed," he said.
Cerulean has always excelled at geography, history and math, which he said comes naturally to him, but in the months leading up to the taping, he made flash cards and buffed up on subjects like pop culture, the Bible, and sports trivia, which were gaps in his knowledge, said Rosenkrantz.
He practiced his buzzer pressing by clicking on a ball point pen.
"He did work his butt off," Rosenkrantz said.
The experience "will probably teach him that if he has a dream he can work really hard and he can get it," she said.
Now that word has spread throughout his school, Cerulean received congratulations from classmates he doesn't even know that well, and was asked to talk to the fifth graders about his experience, he said.
It's been exciting for him, but now he can go back to being a regular "Jeopardy!" fan.
"I’m more relaxed now that I don’t have to study for [the show]," he said.