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Alumni Association to Honor Distinguished Students

Author: Arts and Letters

Matthew Gelchion, a senior from Bayonne, N.J., and Sofia Barbato, a master of divinity candidate from Bastrop, Texas, have been selected recipients of the University of Notre Dame Alumni Association’s 2008-09 Distinguished Student Award and Distinguished Graduate Student Award for their outstanding academic performance and service to the University.

The students will be recognized at a luncheon in their honor April 24 (Friday) on campus.

A political science and sociology double major, Gelchion has compiled a 3.95 grade point average and was named a Notre Dame Presidential Scholar last year. His commitment to service began with the Freshman Peer Leaders program for which he helped plan and lead a confirmation retreat for high school students in South Bend. He also served as a Mass lector in the Basilica and joined the Notre Dame Boxing Club to help raise money for the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh. Last year, he chaired the Spiritual Committee on the Junior Class Council.

Gelchion currently is serving as a resident assistant in Fisher Hall and senior mentor for Freshmen in Discipleship, Evangelization, and Service (FIDES) through Campus Ministry. In this role, he leads a group of seven first-year students in weekly discussions of faith, and helped plan the Class of 2009 retreat. He also is a mentor on the Lifeworks Dream Team, a group that helps instill confidence and inspiration in students in local schools.

Barbato has demonstrated exemplary service through Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, including conducting interviews for Summer Service Learning Program candidates during the last three years. In addition to leading the interview process, she facilitates follow-up discussions with the undergraduate students who participate. Because of her natural ability to make students comfortable, Barbato also was asked to interview student applicants for the Latino Leadership Internship Program, and she led the Holy Cross Mission in Education Seminar in January.

Barbato’s accomplishments extend far beyond the Notre Dame campus. Along with other master of divinity students, she participated in experiential learning courses in Monterrey, Mexico, and Haiti, and worked to assist people who live in the most economically deprived areas. She has volunteered in parishes in El Salvador and Chicago, and in the South Bend community she has served at St. Margaret’s House, the Juvenile Justice Center and the Catholic Worker House. Additionally, Barbato taught and earned a master’s degree in Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program after she received her bachelor’s degree from the University in 2000.

Contact: Angela Sienko, senior editor, alumni communications, 574-631-7005,

Originally published by Angela Sienko and Shannon Chapla at on March 16, 2009.