Glacier student selected for Senate Youth Program

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Glacier High School senior Abigail Roston. (Photo provided)

Glacier High School senior Abigail Roston has been selected to represent Montana in the United States Senate Youth Program.

Through nominations, Montana delegates Roston and Hali Kapperud of Rudyard were selected by Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen as part of a national student delegation made up of 104 of the nation’s top leaders.

The student delegates will participate in the program’s 56th annual Washington Week March 3-10.

Sponsored by the U.S. Senate, the United States Senate Youth Program has been around since 1962 and offers an intensive study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The goal of the program is to instill a lifelong commitment to public service.

Student delegates will attend meetings and briefings with senators, members of the U.S. House, congressional staff, the president, a Supreme Court justice, leaders of Cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media.

As part of the program, each student will receive a $10,000 college scholarship from Hearst Foundations, which funds the program, to encourage delegates to continue studies in government, history and public affairs.

Roston has been interested in government for quite some time.

A member of the Glacier speech and debate team, Roston competes in legislative debate. In this event, competitors debate bills and resolutions. A goal of the event is for competitors to be able to debate on both sides of legislation.

Last season, she placed fourth at state while maintaining a 4.0 GPA earning her Academic All-State status.

Legislative debate topics have fueled a passion for social justice — specifically prison reform.

“Since debating it last year, I’ve totally thrown myself into reading as much as I can about it,” Roston said, later adding that when she gets to D.C., “I’m hoping to have a more elevated conversation about criminal justice reform and future legislation.”

What Roston would currently like to see is the cash bail system reformed.

“Sixty percent of people are jailed because they couldn’t afford bail. Even though in the criminal system you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty — people are jailed just because they couldn’t afford a fee,” she said.

Her mother, Rabbi Francine Roston, has also served as an inspiration for her interest in social justice.

“My mom is a passionate and fearless advocate for all matters of social justice,” she said. “When I went to my first rally I think I was 5. It was a rally on the civil war in Darfur — a topic I couldn’t understand at the time, but what I did understand is that I was there with my mom advocating for people who didn’t have a voice.”

Roston plans to attend Northwestern University in Chicago and pursue a career in criminal law.

“I want to ensure justice and be an advocate for people who have no voice,” she said.

One of the highlights of the week in D.C. will be meeting a Supreme Court justice.

“I believe we have a one-hour session with one of the sitting Supreme Court justices, which is quite an honor,” Roston said.

Roston is current president of the Glacier chapter of the National Honor Society and has logged more than 150 hours of community service, which includes youth coordinator for Whitefish-based Farm Hands.

Her resume also includes serving as a lead campaign intern for Governor Steve Bullock and Denise Juneau, former state superintendent and 2016 candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Roston previously served as a chairwoman of the Montana chapter of the High School Democrats of America.

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Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or

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