Deborah Fowler oversees all of Texas Appleseed’s efforts as its executive director. An attorney experienced in public policy, Deborah is a nationally recognized expert in school discipline and juvenile justice issues, having authored three major reports on the school-to-prison pipeline in Texas. She also authored a first-of-its-kind handbook for attorneys representing defendants who have an intellectual disability. She received the 2011 Excellence in Public Interest Award for her contributions to public interest law. She also received the 2011 Ma’at Justice Award for the State Bar Women and the Law Section — given to individuals who actively address the needs and issues affecting women in the legal profession and in the community. Prior to assuming the executive director’s position, Deborah served as Texas Appleseed’s deputy director. She also has extensive experience working with the judiciary, both as a judicial clerk and supervising attorney. Deborah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University and a Juris Doctor from Lewis & Clark College’s Northwestern School of Law.
Ask Me About: children’s law and policy, marathons, horror movies, and theme music for '70s sitcoms
Brennan Griffin joined Texas Appleseed in 2010 as the development director and has helped set strategic direction and overseen several Texas Appleseed project areas as deputy director since 2015. He has extensive experience in advocacy and policy change, fundraising, and nonprofit management. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College.
Ask Me About: urbanism, running the trails of Austin, and Excel formulas
Gabriella C. McDonald coordinates Texas Appleseed’s cross-programmatic work and connects private law firms, practitioners, and other interested community members to Texas Appleseed’s new and ongoing projects. Gabriella first joined Texas Appleseed in 2009 as a yearlong community service fellow focused on the issues of improving Texas’ foster care system and increasing access to fair financial services. She then spent four years in private practice as a litigator in Los Angeles, CA.
In 2014, Gabriella returned to Texas Appleseed, serving eight years as the Pro Bono & New Projects Director, where her substantive efforts included, among other things, working to create policies to end youth homelessness and reforming Texas’ civil asset forfeiture practices. She is a member of both the American Bar Association's (ABA) Section of Litigation, the Children's Rights Litigation Committee, and the ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty.
Gabriella received her law degree from the University of Michigan, where she served as an executive editor of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law. She earned a master’s in Sports Management at Michigan and received her undergraduate degrees in psychology and government from The University of Texas at Austin.
Ask Me About: college football, yoga/spin/weightlifting, Suits or The Voice, and volunteering/the importance of pro bono
Ann Baddour is the state director of Appleseed projects aimed at bringing low-income and immigrant consumers into the financial mainstream. She is actively involved in reform of regulations governing payday and auto title lending in Texas to build greater consumer protection into these transactions. She also advocates for consumer protections to address financial exploitation of vulnerable populations and improve protections against abusive debt collection practices. Her work in the areas of immigrant financial education and improving consumer disclosure and protection in remittance transactions has been presented at economic conferences in Benin, Africa; Mexico; and the European Union. She was a member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board, serving a four-year term ending in 2018. Ann is a Fulbright Scholar with a Master of Public Affairs Degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from The University of Texas at Austin.
Ask Me About: predatory lending, world travel, and cross-country car trips with kids
Kristian Caballero is the Director of Community Outreach at Texas Appleseed. She helps to develop partnerships and coordinate efforts on a variety of projects — with the intention to engage, activate and empower the community to create social change. She is an expert in community engagement, diversity outreach, grassroots organizing, coalition building, advocacy, and campaign strategy. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Legal Reasoning from the University of Texas at El Paso.
Ask Me About: human rights, racial equity, political demonstrations, travel, and karaoke
Jennifer Carreon holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Criminal Justice and serves as the Director of Texas Appleseed’s Criminal Justice Project. In this role, she engages in public policy advocacy and works with community partners to reform local and state criminal justice policies that result in discriminatory and ineffective outcomes. Jennifer has worked on reforming Texas’ youth and adult justice systems since 2011 and has taught and conducted research in both areas since 2009.
She earned her doctorate from Texas State University in December 2019, where her dissertation focused on Predictors of Secure Residential Placement for Youth Adjudicated to Probation in Texas. Her areas of research range widely from keeping kids “close to home” to ensuring proper treatment of incarcerated adults given PREA requirements, actuarial assessments, and model administrative policies for corrections and reentry.
Jennifer also earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science, both in Criminal Justice, from Texas State University, in 2007 and 2009. While earning her bachelor’s degree, she also minored in forensic psychology and graduated magna cum laude. During her time as a master’s student, Jennifer worked as a graduate and research assistant for the School of Criminal Justice, and went on to teach as an adjunct for the School of Criminal Justice and Criminology, a position she still holds today.
Ask Me About: Horror movies, hiking trails, data construction & analysis, and ideal performance measures for social service systems
Jing Chen is the Accounting Manager at Texas Appleseed. She oversees the nonprofit’s accounting and financial activities. Before joining Texas Appleseed, Jing worked in different industries, including an accounting firm, hotel, hospital, and more recently, a nonprofit organization, all in an accounting and finance role. She has an extensive understanding of bookkeeping procedures and analyzing and interpreting financial records. Jing holds a B.A. in Accounting from California State University at Hayward.
Ask Me About: Travel, Austin Chinese restaurant recommendations, cooking, Kombucha, Chinese cultures
Nathan Clark has oversight of finance and administration for the organization. His department helps to create the organization’s annual budget, create regular financial reports, and assists with its annual audit and administrative operations. Nathan has more than 15 years of experience working in nonprofit finance and accounting. He graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree focused on Management and Entrepreneurship.
Meg Duffy is a Senior Policy Analyst on the Disaster Recovery and Fair Housing project. She works with communities to document and analyze barriers to successful disaster recovery and advocate for equitable access to resources and opportunities. Prior to joining the Texas Appleseed team, Meg worked on community-based research studies on topics ranging from food access to intergenerational poverty. She holds a B.A. in public policy from the University of North Carolina and an M.P.P. and M.P.H. from the University of Michigan.
Ask Me About: Ultimate frisbee, equitable disaster recovery, and Jalapeño Cheddar Cheetos
Uyiosa Elegon serves as a Community Outreach Organizer at Texas Appleseed. He promotes justice by educating and mobilizing residents in Greater Houston who are most impacted by Texas Appleseed’s project areas. Uyiosa’s prior experience includes working on electoral and issue-based campaigns, producing African cultural events, and facilitating various youth civic education projects and initiatives across the United States. He is a co-founder of Shift Press, a media organization that helps young people move power through story-sharing and journalism education programs. Uyiosa holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Houston.
Ask Me About: Naruto, process theology, and youth power
Laura Felix assists Texas Appleseed's external communications efforts by identifying news story opportunities, producing media materials, and interacting with members of the press. Before joining Texas Appleseed, she served as a Communication Aide in the Texas Senate. Laura graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Political Communication.
Ask me about: Traveling, volleyball, the Dallas Cowboys, yoga, and the New York Times crossword
Mayra Fierro is a Dallas native and community leader whose perspective comes from experiencing homelessness after coming out at the age of 17. Her focus is to empower the community with authentic connections.
A decade of experience in personal and commercial insurance enhanced Mayra’s innate desire to build relationships while helping clients with risk management and asset protection. It’s a career she considers herself lucky to have discovered while being homeless, and it eventually provided the much-needed financial support to become house-stable.
As an adult advocate for youth, she served as co-chair of the Metro Dallas Youth Committee, a youth-informed network committed to reducing instances of homelessness for youth. She was also a Steering committee member and advocacy team lead for After8toEducate, a three-pillar program that supports unsheltered youth enrolled in DISD high schools and addresses the immediate needs of other homeless young adults.
Mayra is the founder and host of Cereal & Civil Rights, a casual public forum for discussing local issues in Dallas, and a key member of W.A.T.E.R., a team of community volunteers that mobilizes during local natural disasters, founded during winter storm Uri.
She graduated from Dallas College in 2022 with an Associate of Arts with an emphasis in Peace and Human Rights and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Ask me about: Cartoons, fishkeeping, gardening, and video games
Corina Golea oversees Texas Appleseed’s operations and administrative functions. Before joining Texas Appleseed, Corina was Vice President of Operations at a tax services firm in New York, responsible for the financial productivity and efficiency of the overall business. She has a background in tax preparation, bookkeeping, and as a paralegal. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Accounting from Spiru Haret University in Bucharest, Romania.
Ask Me About: the TV sitcom, Friends; Romanian food; parenting as a single mom; and organizing spaces
Briana Gordley supports Texas Appleseed's Fair Financial Services Project as a Senior Policy Analyst, working to advocate for consumer protection, regulation, and reform in the areas of payday and auto title lending, unjust debt collection, financial abuse and coerced debt, data privacy, and emerging financial technology products. Prior to joining Texas Appleseed, Briana worked directly with survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and stalking to address the physical and financial safety needs and assist survivors in achieving self-sufficiency and stability.
Briana is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in Administration and Policy Practice from The University of Texas at Austin.
Ask Me About: Survivor advocacy, self-care, Kentucky basketball, and true crime podcasts
Andrew Reginald Hairston is a civil rights attorney and writer who serves as the Education Justice Project Director of Texas Appleseed. In this role, he engages in public policy advocacy and works with community groups to diminish the presence and influence of school police officers across the state of Texas. In recognition of these efforts, Andrew served as a 2019 Law for Black Lives Fellow, along with Tyler Whittenberg of Advancement Project’s National Office. Along with Khem Irby, he is a 2022-23 co-chair of the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s Coordinating Committee.
He earned his law degree from Louisiana State University in May 2016, where he was a Faculty Scholar. Andrew received his bachelor's degree, cum laude, from Howard University. From 2017 to 2019, Andrew served as a staff attorney at Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization in Washington, D.C. He began his legal career as the George N. Lindsay Fellow and Associate Counsel at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law from 2016 to 2017. He is licensed to practice law in Texas and Louisiana.
Ask Me About: Chopped, amateur hiking, literature, and international travel
Kelli Johnson manages communications efforts for Texas Appleseed. She has over 20 years of experience in public relations. Kelli has executed PR plans and campaigns locally and nationwide. She writes media materials, coordinates interviews, and assists journalists and bloggers with stories. Kelli previously worked at a PR-advertising agency, where she led media relations efforts for municipal, state and for-profit clients. She also has experience in the nonprofit sector. Her work has garnered 19 Texas Public Relations Association awards and a national PRWeek award for Community Relations Campaign of the Year. Kelli holds a Bachelor of Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin.
Ask Me About: The East Austin Studio Tour and my quest to find the best biscuits in Austin
John Laycock is a research analyst studying how data can be effectively leveraged for more equitable disaster recovery policies. John has a background in urban planning and research analytics. Previous experience includes advocacy for better bus service and sidewalks in Austin, work as a legal assistant at an environmental law firm, and as a research manager for an equity-focused economic development planning firm. One of his projects there was managing the equity and workforce development component of the Oklahoma City Innovation District to ensure that a multi-billion dollar investment in the OU medical school campus would benefit surrounding low-income neighborhoods rather than just enriching the already well-off and creating displacement. He has a bachelor’s degree in Classics from the University of Chicago and a Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning from The University of Texas at Austin.
Ask Me About: Austin history, metrics of social equity, e-bikes, hot takes on 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons
Natasha Malik serves as a Staff Attorney on the Criminal Justice Project at Texas Appleseed. Her work centers on advancing equitable and data-driven reform across various components of the criminal justice system at the local and state level. Prior to joining Texas Appleseed, Natasha worked on policy issues around mental health, immigrant rights, and domestic abuse. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Political Science from Boston University and received her Juris Doctorate from South Texas College of Law Houston. Natasha strives to enact positive change through the rule of law that is just and targeted to improve the lives of all people.
Ask Me About: Human and civil rights, fitness, traveling, Houston sports, and Game of Thrones
Lena Martinez-Wolfinger is dedicated to advancing Texas Appleseed’s mission by connecting private law firms, practitioners, professionals and community members with Appleseed as partners on our many projects. Drawing from personal, academic, volunteer and professional experience, Lena’s commitment to social justice advocacy spans more than 20 years and includes both recruiting and serving as pro bono counsel. Most recently, Lena served as the inaugural director of The Rebel Fund, a national campaign to fund women of color doing creative activism. Lena holds a degree in Anthropology from Dartmouth College and is admitted to the New York and Texas State Bar.
Ask Me About: Indigenous Futurism, The Enneagram, Ethnic Studies in Texas, and the value of pro bono as part of collective action.
Martin A. Martinez is the Youth Justice Senior Policy Analyst who focuses on state policy work related to youth homelessness and juvenile justice. Before joining Texas Appleseed, Martin was working in the Texas Legislative Session as a legislative aide for Arnold Public Affairs Firm. He has had previous experience in the public policy and advocacy sector working as a legislative & policy associate at Every Texan and as a development intern at Annie’s List. Martin recently received his Master of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and earned his undergraduate degree from Southwestern University.
Ask Me About: The intersectionality of youth homelessness; horror movies; the next recipe I’m planning to make; my latest tv show binge; and the ATX food scene
Farah Merchant is the Social Media Strategist for the Criminal Justice Project. She works to increase awareness on Clean Slate Texas initiatives, citation-eligible arrests, and other criminal justice-centered issues through media content and campaigns. Prior to joining Texas Appleseed, Farah managed the social media for an art, culture, and fashion publication and assisted a think tank with its media initiatives. Farah holds a B.A. in English and a certificate in Digital Arts & Media from The University of Texas at Austin.
Ask me about: slasher films, classic literature, and inclusive media practices
Brett M. Merfish is the Director of Youth Justice, which focuses on juvenile justice and youth experiencing homelessness. Brett first joined Texas Appleseed in 2012 working on foster care and fair financial services. She also has experience working as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill, as an associate at Patton Boggs LLP, and as the Political Director for a worker center. Brett received a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia Law School, where she was a member of the Virginia Law Review editorial board and founded the Feminist Legal Forum. She received a Master of Public Policy from the Sanford School at Duke University and her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College.
Cole Meyer serves as a Policy Analyst on Texas Appleseed’s Criminal Justice Project. In this role, he conducts policy-focused research and engages in advocacy to reform state criminal justice policies that result in discriminatory and ineffective outcomes. His areas of research range widely from analyzing the inefficiencies of the record sealing process to examining legal and extralegal factors impacting fines and fees assessments. Cole has shaped his career through work in the nonprofit sector and legal space. His experience draws from interactions with individuals affected by housing inequities, refugees resettling in the United States, and those attempting to obtain Social Security disability benefits. He holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Masters degree in Public Affairs (MPAff) from the University of Texas at Austin.
Ask Me About: my dog - Koi, Nebraska Volleyball, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and my next travel plans.
Maile Molin supports Texas Appleseed's mission through grant writing and other development support. Maile has been involved in social justice for over 15 years, most recently as the founder and executive director of ENGLISH @ WORK, a program that provides customized English classes for immigrants at the workplace. She is a recipient of Toyota's 2014 Mother of Invention Award and Bank of America's Local Hero Award. Maile is a graduate of the LBJ School of Public Affairs where her research focused on adult language acquisition and immigrant rights. She also draws on the education she received as a food service and factory employee in her work supporting Texas’ low-income and immigrant communities.
Ask Me About: urban coyotes, Langston Hughes, and writing for social justice
Noelle Perese serves as the Social Media Manager for Texas Appleseed, where she emphasizes the organization’s work in bringing about fair, just, and equitable laws for all Texans. Before joining Texas Appleseed, Noelle worked in digital communications for a national political organization and an environmental organization. She has extensive experience in digital strategic communications and advocacy campaigns through her work with state and national political action committees. Noelle is a proud alumna of Smith College with a Bachelor of Arts in Government.
Ask Me About: Cooking, Star Trek, art, and Scrabble
Renuka Rege is the Policy Advisor in the Education Justice Project, where she works to end exclusionary school discipline and school policing in Texas. Before coming to Texas Appleseed, she was an attorney at the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Maryland, where she started the organization’s project to combat school pushout through a combination of direct representation, community education, and legislative and policy advocacy. She previously worked at a public school in Houston as a tutor for sixth grade students in reading skills. Renuka earned her law degree from Harvard Law School in 2016 and her Bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Rice University in 2012. She is originally from Houston and recently moved back to the city.
Kayla Roane serves as a Policy Advocate for the Criminal Justice Project. Her focus is on advocating for system-impacted individuals through her lived experience with incarceration and substance abuse. Kayla grew up moving around in a single parent military family and has experienced diverse cultural and community backgrounds. Since her release in 2018, Kayla has dedicated her time to recovery through inpatient treatment, 12-step programs, extensive trauma and behavioral therapies, and service work in the Houston community. She is currently pursuing a degree in behavioral science and is passionate about understanding how trauma and adversity affect the human experience.
Ask Me About: Mental/emotional health awareness, recovery & spiritual growth, creating & exploring within the arts, health & fitness (weight lifting, yoga, etc.), and the foodie/coffee enthusiast culture.
Laura Robinson is the Grants Manager at Texas Appleseed, assisting with grant funding and ensuring the organization complies with grant requirements. Her passion for nonprofit fundraising was developed in various roles over the past decade, including as a Fulbright-Nehru Researcher in India, a fundraising campaign assistant, and as the director of development and operations at a refugee-focused nonprofit.
Laura holds a Master of Global Policy Studies and a Certificate in Nonprofit Studies from the LBJ School at The University of Texas at Austin. She also holds a B.A. from New College of Florida, where she majored in Political Science and International Studies with a minor in Gender Studies.
Ask Me About: social running clubs, gardening in Central Texas, herbal teas, and refugee resettlement
Director, Disaster Recovery and Fair Housing Project
Director, Disaster Recovery and Fair Housing Project
Madison Sloan is Director of the Disaster Recovery and Fair Housing Project at Texas Appleseed. Her work focuses on ensuring equity for historically excluded families and communities in federal disaster recovery programs, as well as broader fair housing and civil rights issues including housing and school segregation, environmental justice, and infrastructure equity. She joined Texas Appleseed in 2007 as an Equal Justice Works Katrina Legal Fellow, following six years representing elderly and low-income clients in housing, public benefits, and family law cases at Legal Services of South Central Michigan. She was awarded the 2011 Impact Award by the State Bar of Texas Poverty Law Section for her disaster recovery work. Madison is a graduate of Kenyon College. She received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School at the University of Texas.
Ask Me About: ketchup chips, cookbook hoarding, teen movies of the 90s, and #HousingSegregationInEverything
Jessi is a Senior Research Analyst at Texas Appleseed providing support to all projects through research methodology development, data gathering and cleaning, and data analysis. Before joining Texas Appleseed, Jessi worked as a research analyst studying and analyzing policy related to marginalized groups. She studied immigration policy and has served immigrants, migrants, and refugees in various capacities across Central America, Mexico, and Texas. Her work in Latin America also included developing a monitoring and evaluation program for an NGO in Nicaragua dedicated to promoting women’s health and solidarity, working with teenage mothers in the Dominican Republic, and providing support to an NGO in Guatemala. In addition, Jessi was part of a large study based in Greater Houston where she provided support in research and data analysis on best practices for providing services to youth experiencing homelessness.
Jessi holds a Master’s in Global Policy Studies from the LBJ School at The University of Texas at Austin. She also holds a B.A. from Texas Tech University where she majored in Spanish and minored in Mathematics. Drawing from her unique background, Jessi’s particular research interest is in how refugees and the undocumented community are uniquely impacted by homelessness. She is passionate about using data to inform policy and provide tangible solutions to social inequities.
Ask Me About: The NFL — especially the Dallas Cowboys, anything science, emigrating, my latest non-fiction read, thematic analysis, my dog — Bertie, and memes
Ellen Stone gathers, verifies, and analyzes data for all of Texas Appleseed’s projects. Prior to joining Texas Appleseed, Ellen worked as a doctoral researcher in the Social Inequality in Development Research Group at The University of Kentucky, focusing on both qualitative and quantitative research designs across development. In addition, Ellen has taught a course on research methods and, as such, is passionate about communicating statistics to broad groups of people and data-driven policy decision-making. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from The University of Kentucky.
Ask Me About: crocheting, special effects makeup, developmental research on stereotype formation, and inferential statistics
Jamie Tegeler-Sauer oversees fundraising and development for Texas Appleseed. Jamie is an experienced project manager, having spent more than nine years working on business development initiatives in the consumer products industry before joining the Texas Appleseed development team in 2014. She has also served as a Design and Marketing Assistant for the University of Northern Iowa Marketing and Public Relations Department and the Hearst Center for the Arts. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Northern Iowa.
Ask Me About: parenting kids close in age, infographics, small-town Iowa, throwing a great party, and baking French macarons.
Assistant to the Executive Director
Assistant to the Executive Director
555-555-WOOF (not really my office number)
Archie comes from a long line of feisty bearded warriors for social justice. At Texas Appleseed, his main areas of focus are the microwave and securing the hallway. Outside of the office, he enjoys short walks, baby carrots, and toys with squeakers. In his spare time, he volunteers as the mascot for a local youth soccer team and donates his time guarding a low window in the front of his home.
Ask Me About: beards before they were cool, squirrels, and managing up