Javier Cepeda SPH ’10 won $12,500 Thursday as a contestant on ABC television quiz show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

“I remember watching the show as a little kid,” said Cepeda, who auditioned for the popular game show after tuning into numerous episodes show last summer. “It was a very surreal experience and the most intense dream that I ever had.”

Part of what made the experience so intense was the two days’ notice Cepeda was given before he was put in front of the camera. After finding out one Monday that he had been selected from the finalist pool to be on the show, he spent 48 hours preparing before his 7:30 a.m. arrival at ABC studios in New York the following Wednesday. Cepeda said he did not sleep the whole time he was preparing.

Lesley Park SPH ’10 was one of the 10 friends Cepeda invited to the studios for moral support. Park said it was fascinating to see how lights and set pieces are assembled, and to catch a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting together an episode of one of the most well-known shows on television.

“After seeing [the show], part of you is inspired to do it as well,” Park said. “But the other part realizes how nerve-wracking the whole experience is. I don’t know if I ever want to be on a game show after that.”

Cepeda was eliminated after incorrectly answering his ninth question: “What are the holes in a violin called?” (The correct answer is ‘f-holes.’) On this question, he “phoned a friend” in a jazz band for advice, but Cepeda said the friend was flustered and gave him the wrong answer. The friend made up for it later when he gave Cepeda a personally autographed copy of author, actor and film producer Kevin Smith’s latest book, in which Smith wrote: “This book is worth $15,000.”

Cepeda said he will spend his winnings on a new computer, a gift for his father’s 60th birthday and airplane tickets for his siblings to visit New Haven. He also said he plans to frame the large novelty check he received on the show, along with other mementos from the day, as he said he expects “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” will be his first and last appearance on a game show.

“I don’t think I could make a career out of it,” Cepeda said. “I’ve never really been an attention-seeking person. I just wanted to do something crazy, and now I’ve checked off one thing on my list of things to do in my life.”