For Abigail Thibeault, a Temple Law graduate, her passion for the anti-gun violence movement was “something that kind of fell” in her lap. Ever since high school, she was always interested in gun policy.
Her goal is to bring awareness to and conduct research about the anti-gun violence movement, as well as become a juvenile advocate for adoptions, custody hearings and rights of youth.
Thibeault, who also served as the president of Temple’s Student Public Interest Network, is now an Emerging Leader Fellow with the Stoneleigh Foundation, which financially supports organizations that speak about important issues, particularly with youth. As a fellow, she is also working with CeaseFirePA, a local group standing against gun violence.
Thibeault said she has had an “eclectic background” as a child, having lived in various states like Washington, New Jersey and Virginia. She decided to attend law school at Temple to be close to her family who lives in Philadelphia and New Jersey.
As an undergrad at Davidson College, Thibeault conducted research on women and gun violence. At Temple, she knew she wanted to do work in juvenile law and ultimately become a child advocate.
Once that opportunity arrived at the Stoneleigh Foundation and CeaseFirePA, two organizations that supported Thibeault’s goals in anti-gun violence work, she didn’t hesitate.
The research project she is currently working on, “Developing Strategies to Prevent Youth from Obtaining Illegal Firearms” will involve conducting focus groups and interviews to answer questions like, “How are youth accessing guns?” and “How are guns being sold to criminals?” in the Philadelphia Police district that covers Main Campus.
“I worked with the police a lot to try and see when they apprehend individuals, specifically youth, if the officers are asking the question ‘Where are they getting the guns?’” Thibeault said.
She is also working closely with two Temple professors who will serve as her academic mentors, Marsha Zibalese-Crawford, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, and Christen Rexing, an assistant professor in health services administration and policy.
CeaseFirePA applied to Stoneleigh to serve as a nonprofit host institution for several projects involving gun violence, and Thibeault’s research piqued the group’s interest when they met through the interviewing process.
Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, has worked closely with Thibeault since August and believes she is very passionate about improving safety for youth in the local community. Through the work from Thibeault and other organizations, Goodman hopes the seriousness of gun violence is emphasized throughout the country.
“Gun violence is not [just] an urban problem, not a suburban problem or a black or white problem—it’s an American problem,” Goodman said. “No matter where you’re from or where you live, it does affect you.”
CeaseFirePA hosted a fundraising event Sept. 29 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Carriage House to raise awareness on gun violence issues and educate younger individuals on the issues.
Thibeault hopes to continue her research about anti-gun violence and support children in the city who need their voices heard.
“I want to carry the work and the experience from this year into child advocacy, either working for a non-profit or for [the Defender Association],” she said.
Delialah Burns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.