Cosimo Fabrizio ’22 has become one of the 62 winners of the prestigious 2021 Truman Scholarship, selected from among over 600 applications for his leadership in criminal justice reform.
The Truman Scholarship, which includes up to $30,000 in merit scholarships for graduate or professional school, will help pay for Fabrizio’s future plans of attending law school and earning a masters degree in public policy. The scholarship will also jumpstart leadership and employment opportunities for Fabrizio, building off of his track record of advocacy, research and entrepreneurship.
Fabrizio is particularly interested in criminal justice reform — he has been researching with Prof. Joe Margulies, law and government, since his sophomore year, studying the climate that previously incarcerated individuals face when re-entering the community in Tompkins County. This work has fundamentally shaped Fabrizio’s perspective on the criminal justice system.
“The end of that pipeline [from arrest to sentencing] is almost as important, if not as important, as the beginning,” Fabrizio said. “You need to be very mindful of how someone leaving a period of incarceration enters the community, otherwise things become very cyclical.”
At Cornell, Fabrizio has participated in a range of organizations, from BlackGen Capital, Kappa Alpha Pi pre-law fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity and Scholars Working Ambitiously to Graduate, a student-run mentorship organization that aims to increase the graduation and retention rate of Black males at Cornell.
Fabrizio is also the co-founder and president of rapStudy, an education-technology startup that aims to help students learn through music — in 2020, the company worked with over 300 educational partners.
For Fabrizio, his interest in criminal justice advocacy didn’t start with working in communities or in the classroom. It started with his love of music. Fabrizio has played guitar since second grade — which later landed him at Juilliard Pre-College, and by eighth grade at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, when he met his mentor.
“Jazz got me more in tune with Black history and civil rights struggles in this country,” Fabrizio said. “It’s largely because of [my mentor’s] view on music’s ability to serve as a symbol of democracy, giving us a unique lens into the history of civil rights movements in this country and the Black experience.”
Fabrizio said he’s grateful to his parents for providing him with these opportunities, despite navigating limited resources.
“[My mom] went to community college. My pa, he just retired as a public school teacher,” Fabrizio said. “I’ve come from a family where I do believe anything is possible.”
Fabrizio said he hopes to become a progressive prosecutor later in his career, after learning from experience in defense law or community building work to support incarcerated or at-risk minors.
“Whether that’s [working with] kids who are currently in the incarceration system trying to navigate the case, or more the community-based work that helps prevent kids from actually getting into that system, that’s a good place to start a career,” Fabrizio said. “I see myself wanting to transition into a more prosecutor-minded role later down the line.”