Something didn’t feel right in Michelle Bos-Lun’s classroom.
“I was teaching students US history looking at US textbooks, and talking about the standard things you always hear about in our democracy- things like checks and balances and division of powers,” Bos-Lun explained in an interview with Emerge Vermont. “I just found so often I was teaching my students history and civics and ‘this is the way it’s supposed to work’, and yet there were so many examples [of our government] not working.”
So, what do you do when systems of government aren’t working? You change them.
Bos-Lun, a Westminster resident, is on the ballot for State Representative in Windham County. She participated in Emerge’s Bootcamp this past March, and is a first-time candidate. Bos-Lun is a longtime teacher, beginning her career teaching English in Taiwan as a teenager and then spending six years working with Lakota youth in South Dakota. She has taught Social Studies and English at Okemo Mountain school for six years.
Bos-Lun’s work as a classroom teacher is just a glimpse into her impressive career. Currently, she Chairs Westminster’s Democratic Town Committee and a member of Windham County’s Democratic Committee. She’s also the Coordinator for the Brattleboro Community Justice Center Reentry Program, which helps previously or presently incarcerated individuals rejoin communities. Bos-Lun has led numerous State Department sponsored leadership programs with youth, mostly from conflict or post-conflict areas around the world. Her global engagement extends to her job as Assistant Director of the Global Issues and Youth Action Summer Program at the Governor’s Institute of Vermont. Some of her students from this program, along with others from past work at the Compass School, volunteer on her campaign.
Although Bos-Lun’s career in leadership positions have prepared her well to be a State Rep, campaigning during a pandemic is a completely new challenge.
“I have not had a chance to physically meet very many voters yet,” Bos-Lun said. Although she cannot knock on doors, Bos-Lun can still reach voters’ porches another way.
“One of the things that Emerge tells you is [to] try and find effective ways to connect with voters, and so handwriting postcards was something I could do,” Bos-Lun said. She and her team of volunteers sent out over 2000 postcards in total.
Bos-Lun has been participating in online panels addressing different issues, such as mental health and criminal justice. She also organized an Emerge-inspired forum last week called “Emerging Women of Windham County”, which was moderated by Emerge alumna and State Rep Emilie Kornheiser. The forum featured Bos-Lun and fellow Emerge graduate Leslie Goldman.
“The forums [are] one way that I am able to connect with voters …[and] help them learn about what I care about,” Bos-Lun said.
Although Bos-Lun has many issues she is passionate about, a few come to the fore.
“If I could pick one issue that I care about in Vermont and that I would like to make an impact on, it would be mental health policy,” Bos-Lun said. She is a community educator with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) VT, and has spent three years directing RAMP, a mentorship program for youth with learning differences and other challenges in three Windham County high schools to develop career readiness skills and opportunities.
If I could pick one issue that I care about in Vermont and that I would like to make an impact on, it would be mental health policy.
“More than any other issue, [mental health] is what I found myself calling and talking to my own legislators about when something was being proposed,” Bos-Lun said. “I would like to be able to just be in the seat, and be the one that is helping to put forward legislation to address some of those issues.”
Mental health intersects with many other issues, one of which is housing. Bos-Lun serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors of the Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS) in Vermont, and has presented to senate committees about funding mental health and housing for vulnerable populations. Bos-Lun advocates for folks with disabilities, formerly incarcerated individuals, and people facing economic struggles in general to have fair housing access.
She also hopes that housing solutions can be expanded to allow more immigrants and refugees to make homes in Vermont.
“On a global scale, there are more people that are in need of safe housing and a place to live than anytime since World War II, and yet our borders are more or less closed,” Bos-Lun said.
Amidst a global housing crisis, it is notable that Vermont has a shrinking population.
“If we could have a sensible federal policy that would cooperate with us, we could… make a welcoming environment for people who need homes, and it could also be beneficial to our communities,” Bos-Lun said. “To me, it’s a win-win.”
Making Vermont a more open and inclusive state comes with creating networks of collaboration and dialogue. And luckily, that is Bos-Lun’s specialty.
“The idea of bringing people together with different backgrounds is something that I love to do,” Bos-Lun said. Her work in restorative justice and with facilitating dialogues between Iraqi and American youth through global youth leadership programs are testaments to her skill in this area.
Whether Bos-Lun is teaching a classroom full of students, presenting about housing affordability and access to members of the Vermont senate, or bringing people together across borders, her resolute leadership and commitment to justice is something you can count on.
Emerge is so proud to have Bos-Lun as an alumna, and we cannot wait to see what changes she’ll make to Vermont systems wherever she goes. And who knows? Maybe by the time the next generation of children are in a history classroom, Bos-Lun will be in their history textbooks.
Emerge has one goal: To increase the number of Democratic women in office who are reflective of the incredible diversity of the Democratic party by recruiting, training and providing a powerful network.
To support more women like Michelle Bos-Lun, contribute to Emerge Vermont today!