Dan-el Padilla Peralta '06, a classics scholar from New York City, is the recipient of this year's Sachs scholarship, which will allow him to study for two years at Oxford.
"I still haven't quite gotten over the thrill — just the opportunity to study at Oxford," Peralta said in an interview Sunday. "But more important than the full funding for two years at Oxford are the valuable interactions that I have had with other members of the Sachs community and ... the camaraderie between past recipients."
The scholarship, which is conferred each year to a senior who has demonstrated an interest in public service, is named after Daniel Sachs '60, a Rhodes Scholar and former varsity football player who died of cancer at 28.
It is one of the most prestigious awards given to University undergraduates.
Peralta's professors described him as an exceptional scholar and passionate student.
"Dan-el stands out as the single most remarkable student it has been my privilege to teach and get to know in my eight years on the faculty," Joshua Katz, assistant professor of classics, said in an email. "He is both a first-rate classicist and a force in the Woodrow Wilson School, from which he is earning a certificate."
Denis Feeney, chair of the classics department, had nothing but praise for Peralta.
"He is really the ideal student. I can't think of a weakness," Feeney said. "This may sound like hyperbole but it's all true. He's just a joy to work with."
Peralta's interest in classics developed in 6th grade when he began studying Latin. He also took Ancient Greek in 9th grade at Collegiate School, a private school in Manhattan, which he attended from 7th grade through high school.
Though he began his Princeton career thinking he would major in molecular biology, Peralta said that changed after he took Latin 210. In a gesture Peralta described as "incredibly nice," classics professor Andrew Feldherr encouraged him to consider the field for his major.
From that point onward, "majoring in classics was just inevitable," he said.
Peralta is writing his thesis on funerary epitaphs inscribed on marble stones that date back to around 100 AD.
"He just has an incredible appetite for everything," Feeney said.
In addition to fulfilling requirements for his major, Peralta has taken 38 classes, averaging five and half classes per semester, and is getting a certificate in the Wilson School.
"What I do in the Woodrow Wilson School is very education oriented," Peralta said.
His interest in educational politics began while attending Collegiate.
"That opportunity was due to the intervention of a program called Prep for Prep," Peralta said. The goal of the program "is to take talented minority students out of the public systems and put them into the private systems."
Peralta believes his experience with Prep for Prep, a program which the Admission Office is now collaborating with, has shaped his summer activities and academic interests.
"I have since [high school] felt a very strong desire to pay them back somehow," he said.
Peralta has spent five summers working as a mentor for students in the program and has also worked as the head of the summer advisory system.