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Glacier High alum committed to criminal justice reform

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | March 18, 2022 12:00 AM

Glacier High School 2018 graduate Abigail Roston is pursuing her education with excellence, guided by her faith in pursuit of criminal justice reform.

The 2021 Truman Scholar recipient and Rhodes Scholar finalist (two highly competitive national scholarship programs) is completing a double major in legal studies and American history with a minor in data science at Northwestern University in Illinois, where she is a Leopold Fellow conducting historical research with a professor for an upcoming book.

She is currently planning to become a public interest lawyer with an emphasis on constitutional litigation with a focus on criminal justice reform and juvenile justice reform.

Growing up around lawyers, over time, Roston came to embrace the idea of becoming an attorney. It wasn’t until her senior year of high school in 2018 that she discovered her passion for criminal justice reform while competing on the Legislative Debate team.

“It was really a life-changing experience for me. My case was on eliminating the death penalty,” Roston said.

That year, she was the Class AA state champion in Legislative Debate.

“It was definitely a turning point for me seeing where I wanted to head as a lawyer in the future,” she said.

Throughout her life, however, her Jewish faith has been her guide on the path of discovering her life’s purpose.

“My own motivation and interest is deeply tied to my Jewish faith. Since I was younger, I’ve been trying to find my own personal stake in that value of making the world a better place,” she said referring to the Hebrew phrase “tikkun olam.”

Roston went on to intern with the Montana Innocence Project in 2019, working with public defenders. In 2020, she was a legal researcher working with an appellate attorney on juvenile justice cases and life sentences.

Since her freshman year in college, she’s volunteered for the Northwestern Prison Education Program, tutoring incarcerated students taking college classes, and in her senior year, said she became a formal intern.

“I started helping write a reentry guide for students who are finishing their sentences and entering society again,” Roston said, which includes help finding housing, enrolling in community colleges and finding jobs.

Roston said it’s rewarding work and has solidified her focus on reform.

“I think my experience working with the Northwestern Prison Education Program has deepened my commitment to working with individuals and for systemic change,” she said.

As part of the Truman Scholar program, Roston received $30,000 for graduate studies and special internship opportunities within the federal government.

“I believe everyone has the capacity to change,” Roston said. “I feel the criminal justice system right now treats people only as the sum total of their worst acts instead of realizing the potential to grow, change and be supported.”

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 406-758-4431 or by email at hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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