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Locust Valley identical twins are valedictorian, salutatorian

Twins Matthew, left, and Nicholas Rizzo of Locust

Twins Matthew, left, and Nicholas Rizzo of Locust Valley, 17, are salutatorian and valedictorian, respectively, of Locust Valley High School's Class of 2017. They are shown outside the school on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Identical twins Nicholas and Matthew Rizzo have doubled down on their achievements at Locust Valley High School, earning the honor of valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2017.

Nicholas achieved a 107.90 grade-point average and Matthew a 107.77 GPA. Locust Valley school officials said it is the first time that twins have graduated at the top of the class in decades — and maybe ever.

“Our friends have been saying since sophomore year that we are going to be ‘val’ and ‘sal,’ ” Nicholas said. “I never believed it.”

The 17-year-old brothers from Locust Valley have attended district schools since kindergarten, first at Ann MacArthur Primary and Locust Valley Intermediate before going on to middle school and high school.

Both are International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates and have been named Advanced Placement Scholars with Distinction — a designation by College Board, the tests’ sponsor, given to students who got an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP exams they took, and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of those exams. (The top AP test score is 5.)

The Rizzo brothers have made their mark together in academics and extracurriculars, founding the school’s Computer Engineering Club, co-captaining the cross country team and hitting the lanes for the bowling team. They are members of the National Honor Society and National Foreign Language Honor Society, with both speaking Italian.

And yes, it is difficult to tell them apart, with their matching eyeglasses and similar hairstyles.

Their mother, Lucia Rizzo, said she always knew her sons were good students, but was surprised at how they compared with the rest of the graduating class. The family, which includes sister Elizabeth, 24, learned of the double honor at a school event in October, when Matthew was named a National Merit Scholar.

“We were very, very happy,” the mother said.

Her sons “work hard, but also they enjoy what they are doing,” she said. She didn’t have to remind them to study or do homework: They just did it, she said, and would help friends with studies as well.

Matthew’s passion is history and Nicholas’ is physics. They said they support one another and are not competitive.

“If we are studying for something and I don’t know it, or understand it, I would say, ‘Nick, can you help me out with this?’ and vice versa,” Matthew said.

Nicholas said he and his brother were “kind of stunned at first” when they learned the news.

“It was like, ‘Wow, we both did it. We were both able to get the top two spots,’ ” he said.

Matthew said he and his brother took all the same classes.

“Our average from class to class varied by a point or two,” he said. The tiny difference in their GPAs probably stemmed from scores on a test, here and there, over the years, he said.

They are thinking about the graduation ceremony, scheduled June 24, and considering whether to combine their speeches.

Assistant Principal Michelle Villa checked school records going back to 1961 and did not find twins who graduated from Locust Valley in the top two spots.

“As an educator, it is really phenomenal that two of our top students are identical brothers and it is a challenge to distinguish them, they are so much alike,” she said. The Class of 2017 has 161 students.

Twins have been named valedictorian and salutatorian on Long Island before. In recent years, twins have graduated in those top spots at several high schools, including in Carle Place, Copiague, Great Neck and Sag Harbor.

Nicholas and Matthew both are leaning toward majoring in chemical engineering. Each has been accepted at Drexel University in Philadelphia and Northeastern University in Boston. They haven’t decided where to go or if they will attend the same school.

“There is a chance we will go to the same school — we’re not really trying for it,” Matthew said. “If it happens, it happens.”

The brothers attributed their success to hard work, plus “we always put in that extra amount of effort,” Nicholas said.

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