Only 60 percent of SMMUSD seniors applied for financial aid. (File photo)

They donned caps and gowns, walked across the stage and earned their high school diplomas.

Now what?

The Daily Press caught up with a few newly minted Santa Monica High School graduates to find out about their future plans:

To Israel and beyond

Emma Wergeles will take a gap year to visit and learn about Israel and Jewish communities around the world before attending the University of Wisconsin next fall.

“I’ve always known I wanted to take a gap year and I have traveled a lot with my family as a kid, and traveling has always been a huge part of my life and I love it, so this program combines everything that I really love,” she said.

Wergeles will no doubt get enough traveling in this program. Based in Jerusalem, Wergeles will visit Jewish communities in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, India, Italy, Portugal, Jordan, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain throughout the year.

And while she is excited about all of these places, Wergeles is especially looking forward to going to India.

“India is going to be extremely fascinating,” she said. “I think it is going to be a very culturally enriching experience.”

Wergeles plans on studying political science at Wisconsin with the goal of pursuing a career in law.

“I think I want to go into law, but potentially international law so that I can still be able to travel a lot,” she said.

Diamond destination

Matthew Kassowitz wasn’t getting much attention as a baseball player during his time at Wildwood.

But when he left the small Los Angeles private school for Samohi, things changed.

“It got me exposure,” he said. “I transferred to Santa Monica and that is what got me exposed to the Brewers’ scout team.”

One thing led to another, and now Kassowitz is planning to join the University of Arizona baseball team in Tucson next season.

Kassowitz expects to compete for playing time as a catcher under new Wildcats coach Jay Johnson, who replaces Andy Lopez at the helm.

The outgoing senior helped the Vikings to a 20-9 overall record and a 8-2 tally in league play this past season, when they reached the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals before falling 1-0 to then-undefeated San Dimas.

With strong defensive instincts and plenty of power at the plate, Kassowitz is looking forward to playing for a Division I program that competes in the Pac-12.

Beyond that? He wants to “get better and further my career and hopefully make it to the major leagues in a few years.”

Daily Press reporter Jeffrey I. Goodman contributed to this report.

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