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Criminal justice reform is call to action for Truman Scholar

Abigail Roston wins highly competitive congressional scholarship
Truman Scholar Abigail Roston
Abigail Roston studies American history, legal studies and data science.

Northwestern University junior Abigail Roston has received the highly competitive Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a $30,000 award that supports graduate education for outstanding students dedicated to public service and, in Roston’s case, criminal justice reform.

A junior studying American history, legal studies and data science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, she plans to attend law school, join the ranks of federal public defenders, specializing in juvenile justice, and ultimately win appointment to the office of U.S. solicitor general, where Roston believes she would be ideally situated to reform the system from the inside out.

The tens of thousands of children incarcerated in the U.S. in correctional-style facilities, many without having been before a judge or awaiting trial, is an undeniable call to action for Roston.

“I want to be the lawyer who helps her clients feel hopeful and empowers them to create a better life. I will do everything in my power to be a force of justice for others, and direct all of my energy into fixing a system that jails kids and gives up on them,” she wrote in her scholarship application.

On campus, Roston serves as president of the Northwestern chapter of J Street U, a national organization advocating for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She is a Leopold Research Fellow in the history department and president of Northwestern Hillel. Roston also helps lead Planned Parenthood Generation Action and the Contemporary Thought Speaker Series. 

Roston is an active member the Jewish community, and her passion for criminal justice reform is informed by her faith.

“Judaism commands me to make the world a better place and fight relentlessly for justice. It is part of my calling to be a public defender,” she said.

Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate study along with priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government.

Students interested in learning more about the Truman Scholarship should contact Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships.