May 31, 2019

Member Spotlight: Janice Friesen

Janet Friesen is a great person to know if you need computer guidance (like how to organize your digital photos or create a website) or social media help. At this past Discovery Day, for example, she was able to provide on-the-spot, simplified directions for a marketing committee member who was new to Instagram stories. She obviously has a knack for helping people learn.

"My husband is a professor, so in his early career we moved a lot, so I have done lots of different things and lived in many different places," she says. "I have been a substitute teacher, taught 2nd and 3rd grade, and finally became a computer teacher. I taught the kids, but also did training for teachers. In 2011, because of budget cuts, my position was terminated. I decided then to start my business, I'm Not A Geek, and help people to be successful using technology rather than frustrated. I have met so many interesting and different people all around Austin. I love it." 

What are your thoughts on Impact Austin’s strategic initiatives for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)?

I have always been impressed with Impact Austin and the idea of women getting together to give. I live in East Austin. I never thought I could participate in giving, but this year we had some extra money we could give. I always pictured Impact Austin as being an organization for rich, white women in the west. I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all. I am a white woman. I just didn't see myself as rich enough to participate. It also seemed clear to me that most of my friends in East Austin were not included. So, I am very interested in the initiative. I also think that giving is so wonderful. It helps me to realize how much I have and connects me with people different than me. 

Why did you decide to get involved as a volunteer with the DEI Committee?

As a new member I wanted to be involved and the DEI Committee was an idea that intrigued me. How does an organization that was pretty homogenous become diverse and inclusive? I thought maybe my perspective would be helpful. I do not have any answers, but I am really glad to be participating this way.

What are some actions the committee is taking that you think will be helpful?

I think that just talking about it and changing our perspective is helpful. The more we can see each other as basically the same the more we can do things together. The issue is not that the Impact Austin membership is exclusive. People who join Impact Austin are generous and caring people. Our donations make a big difference to nonprofits. I  really enjoyed hearing Rebecca Powers tell the story of her eyes opening as she worked on the selection process. She had thought that no one would really have these needs. Then she visited nonprofits and saw with her own eyes.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My last job was teaching computer at Barton Creek Elementary school in the Eanes district. One day when I was working in the computer lab after school a group of kids in the after-school class was brought into the computer lab by their high school leaders. The leaders were talking to each other and one of them said that they would never drive to East Austin because it was so dangerous there. "You could get into an accident and many people over there are not insured." I was shocked. Every day I drove from East Austin to West Austin and I had never thought anything like that. It is a picture of how important opening peoples' eyes to the humanity of others is.


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