Erika Nowlin

Erika is a native Austinite, former teacher, wife, and mom of two amazing daughters.  Austin Allies is her brainchild - born from a need to counteract the increasing negativity she was seeing in the world, and to teach her kids empathy, understanding, and compassion for everyone in their community.  She also wanted to find a way to make volunteering easier for families, by locating and creating events and opportunities with local organizations who needed support.  Austin Allies' goal is to meet all of those needs, and it's off to a great start!


Vanessa Lowe

Vanessa Lowe has worked in urban education and literacy for almost 20 years. She started her career in education at the Department of Education in Washington, DC before moving into the classroom. She has taught high school English language arts in Austin and Houston, Texas and Brooklyn, New York. She currently works as a curriculum designer and teacher of teachers working specifically with educators who work in underserved communities. She has trained and taught teachers in New York City, New Orleans, and San Antonio. She is the mother to 10-year-old twin boys and lives with her family in southwest Austin.

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Rachel Zabierek

Rachel taught high school math, science, and robotics in Dallas and San Diego high schools for 8 years before taking time off to raise her two young sons in Austin. She continues to work part-time as a tutor and substitute teacher while also presenting informal science lessons and demonstrations at assisted living facilities in Austin. She joins Austin Allies on the Board of Directors with a desire to cultivate opportunities for even our youngest Allies to volunteer their time and abilities to help others.


Janene Franke

Janene has always had a passion for social issues and civic engagement; however, finding an outlet has been tough while juggling a family and a career in software.  During a recent conversation with her kiddos about donating some of “their” money to those less fortunate, she watched as their smiling faces turned to blank stares of confusion. Insisting that they part with what was given to them without understanding why, could have truncated the very emotion she was trying to foster. She immediately knew they needed a plan B:  build awareness first.  The awareness would hopefully lead to empathy.  The empathy would hopefully (some day) lead to a spirit of gracious giving in the form of money, time, and/or ideas to help solve other people’s problems.  She was keenly aware that this exposure would take intentional effort and the reordering of weekend priorities.  She couldn’t be more excited to support Austin Allies and the opportunities to volunteer as a family, build awareness, and support their community.