Twin brothers Michael and Matthew Merritt are the Class of 2020 co-valedictorians at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel, Maryland. The brothers – identical in looks – also have the same grade point averages and academic records.

The two graduate with an identical weighted 4.56 grade point average. Both were on the Principal’s List every quarter and semester of their four years at Pallotti. Both are four-year recipients of the Pallotti Medal for academic excellence, and both are members of the National Honor Society and the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica.

Outside of their stellar academic achievements, Michael and Matthew participated in the school’s robotics club, competed in public debate, swam for the local Russett Swim team, attended the FBI Teen Academy in Baltimore, were part of the Maryland Innovation and Security Institute, and served internships at DreamPort cyber innovation center. The brothers welcomed returning military personnel as part of Operation Welcome Home Maryland, and helped staff the food pantry and provide food to clients at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services.

This fall, both Merritt brothers will attend Quinnipiac University, a private university in Hamden, Connecticut. Both have received scholarships and will major in computer science, with a focus on software engineering or software development.

Despite the identical recognition and honor the brothers have achieved, they have never felt competitive with each other.

“I would not say that I have ever felt competitive with my brother in my academic career,” said Matthew. ‘By studying and discussing with my brother, both he and I can have a better understanding of what we were taught. I found that successes tend to benefit everyone, and failures benefit no one, so I have no reason to compete with my brother.”

Michael said that he and Matthew were not competitive because “we realized that we could do more together than apart. For example, instead of studying separately to see who could do better on a test, we often studied together to fix mistakes or issues that one of us may have made but never realized.”

The sons of Adele and Matt Merritt of Laurel, the family belongs to St. Mary of the Mills Parish, directly across from the high school.

“We specifically chose Pallotti because it was right across the street from my old school and parish, meaning that we had a bit of previous experience with Pallotti and trusted the school,” Michael said. “There are many aspects of a Catholic education, such as the retreats or learning about the Catholic Church’s position, that are hard to find elsewhere.” Matthew agreed, saying, “I knew a lot of people from my Church community who were either at Pallotti or had gone to Pallotti.”

Both Michael and Matthew noted that attending school with a twin had its advantages.

“Having a twin brother attend school with me had a lot of benefits and blessings, as I was able to go into high school with at least one guaranteed friend,” Michael said. “It also allowed me to accomplish more than I could have done alone, as we could simply split up if we had to do two different things at the same time, like talking to two teachers after school about an upcoming test.”

Matthew noted, “One of the many blessings that came with having a twin brother attend the same school was that I could always go to my brother if I was confused or lost. Since my brother and I took all the same classes, I could always ask him if I did not understand the lesson or if he had better notes than I did. Another blessing was that I was able to study with my brother, and I was able to discuss things with him. I have found that when I try to explain things to my brother and discuss with him, it becomes much easier to remember what I was saying.”

Regarding any challenges they faced as twins at school, Michael said that “the only real challenge of having a twin brother attend school with me was that it slightly diminished my individuality, as we were usually addressed as a match set instead of as two individuals. Matthew also found that by having a twin brother, “many people saw us both as the same person… I mean that people would associate us with the same things, even if they only really related to one of us.”

The two never used the fact that they were identical twins to play practical jokes on their classmates or teachers because “there was more than enough confusion just as is,” Michael said. “Although many of my peers and teachers were able to tell us apart for the most part by our senior year, there were a lot of mistakes in earlier years.”

‘Sadly, I did not ever find any fun ways to play a practical joke on anyone by being a twin. People usually get us backwards anyways, so things never really worked out,” Matthew said.
 As they look on the back on their time at Pallotti, the brothers agree that participating of the school’s robotics team was a highlight for them.

“I enjoyed doing robotics because it allowed me to apply my knowledge of computer science in a variety of ways,” Michael said. “It also allowed me to continue pursuing the field of computer science that I loved so much after I had taken all of my school’s AP computer science classes.”

“It was a great deal of fun for me because I got to apply skills that I had developed in classes to an activity that I enjoyed alongside my brother and my friends,” Matthew added. “I am interested in programming and computer science, so robotics was always an interesting way to explore and develop in those areas.”

The Merritt brothers both noted that distance learning and self-quarantining as a result of COVID-19 pandemic is not how they envisioned the end of their high school careers, but both are philosophical about it.

“While it is certainly sad and disappointing for this to happen at this time, the quarantine and isolation are necessary and in my best interests, so I cannot be too upset,” Matthew said. Michael added that “it is certainly disappointing that our class is missing out on so much, (but) it is truly important that we make it through this pandemic, and this is the best way to do that.”

Matthew said he was “very surprised by how resilient and flexible my school and teachers were in this time, quickly shifting to online distance learning so we could finish out the academic year... While it was certainly challenging at first, I am pleased nonetheless that I was able to continue my senior year during such an event.”

Michael said that the “difficult transition” was made easier by “the availability and flexibility of the school, teachers, and students.”

“I was afraid that distance learning would make it difficult to learn in these last few months, (but) the availability and responsiveness of teachers through services like email has made it much easier for us to continue the school year in the new environment,” he said.

As they look to the future, both brothers said they are grateful for the Catholic education they have received.

“Although I am not going to a Catholic college next year, I am very thankful for my Catholic education, as it allowed me to grow and succeed as an individual and provided me with many valuable lessons, values, and memories,” Michael said.

Matthew said he was thankful for “all of the teachers and mentors who have guided, taught, and supported me throughout the last 13 years of my education, and I would also like to thank the parishioners and priests at St. Mary of the Mills who have watched over me and helped me grow into the successful person that I am today.”