Meet the team

Executive staff & senior leadership

Caroline (Cara) Dessert, Esq.

Chief Executive Officer

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

A queer Latina, Dessert is an attorney and non-profit executive with 15 years in social justice leadership, Dessert was previously the executive director of Immigration Equality, a national organization focused on… 

LGBT immigrant rights. She worked closely with the Obama Administration, as well as local, state and national organizations working at the intersection of LGBT and immigrant rights.

During her first year as CEO, Dessert led The Center to moments of phenomenal growth. The Center embarked on the first-ever cross-border immigration campaign which provided life-sustaining humanitarian relief to LGBTQ and HIV-positive asylum seekers and their families at the border; opened the South Bay Youth Center; stood with our transgender and nonbinary community fighting back against the relentless attacks from the current Administration with undaunted courage and inspirational authenticity. Additionally, Dessert helped increase The Center’s budget by a million dollars annually, service visits to more than 82,000 annually and staff by 14 and along with The Center’s Board of Directors decided it was an important time to engage in strategic planning. Dessert is married to Lisa Valenzuela.

Beth Davenport, LCSW, MBA

Chief Operating Officer

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Beth has nearly 20 years of experience in program development and oversight. Prior to coming to The Center in 2011, she was the executive director of adoptions and senior director of quality assurance for…

Walden Family Services.

She also created Walden’s LGBTQ Foster Care Network, which provided safe and loving homes for foster youth who identify as LGBTQ and provided on-going cultural competency trainings for Southern California foster parents and child welfare providers around the country. Beth is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Tulane University, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University. She is currently the co-chair of the San Diego Youth Homelessness Consortium and is a board member of the California Coalition for Youth. In 2009, Beth was named by the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine to its annual list of “Top 40 under 40,” recognizing her professional accomplishments.

Angela M. Reyes, CPA

Chief Financial Officer

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Prior to joining The Center, Angela worked in public accounting for ten years with firms Mayer Hoffman McCann and BDO managing audit engagements within the private, public, and nonprofit sectors…

including our local Planned Parenthood.

She also worked for several years as the Foundation Manager for a major institutional client of the Tides Foundation, a nationally known, public foundation. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Masters of Science in Accountancy and has an active CPA license. Angela is a member of the LGBTQ community and a decade ago, as a new parent, participated in The Center’s Families program with her son.

Rebekah J. Hook-Held, M.A.

Chief Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Officer

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Rebekah Hook-Held holds both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Western Washington University. As an experienced policy professional, Rebekah joined The Center in 2014…

to spearhead the public policy and justice-focused advocacy efforts on behalf of The Center and the greater LGBTQ community.

Additionally, she leads The Center’s civic engagement and leadership development programs, aimed to empower and build power within the LGBTQ community. In 2015, Rebekah was honored as a “Woman of the Year” by the Speaker of the California State Assembly, Toni G. Atkins. Committed to leading in her community, and investing in leadership development, Rebekah is a member of the Coalition for Reproductive Justice Board of Directors, a 2013 Alumni of New Leaders Council Institute and San Diego Leadership Alliance.

Bridgette austin

senior director of people & culture

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Prior to joining The Center, Bridgette is a Navy Veteran with 25 years of leadership management experience and cultural diversity, most recently owning her own business and human relations and management…

consulting firm. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a Master of Business for Veterans and holds certificates in Project and Human Resource Management from Syracuse University and Cornell University, respectively. Bridgette is a member of the LGBTQ community and is really looking forward to helping The Center grow and reimagine our Center to ensure that our community is valued and welcomed, and strategically and intentionally focusing on implementing our strategic plan.

CENTER STAFF

Tanesha Adams
Hannah Anew 
Bridgette Austin
Mari Ayala
Melissa Bailey
Gustavo Banuelos
Monica Banuelos
Elisa Barnett
Karrah Bissett
Jeremy Bloom
Eric Bowen
Deja Cabrera
Eva Callahan
Ricardo Calleja
Mardi Campbell
Steve Carroll
Leo Cartier Jr.
Patricia Celaya
Edgar Chavarin Ayala
Daniel Cordero

Aliyah Crowder
Jason Cueno
Beth Davenport 
Caroline Dessert
Victor Esquivel
Lenitha Fields
Ricardo Gallego
Angel Gonzalez
Ashleigh Green
Elizabeth Green
Christina Griffin-Jones
Malek Guerbaoui
Pamela Halliwell
Carter Hantula
Shawn Harvey
Aaron Heier
Rebekah Hook-Held
Ian Johnson
Sabrina Johnson
Stevie Juarez

Christina Laigo
Megan Meek
Citlalli Mendoza
Sarah Merk-Benitez
Noah Mixon
Alicia Montellanos
Luis Montero-Adams
Yey Morales
Alex Ordoubegian
Mars Pacelli
Jacqueline Palmer
Gustavo Perez
Alberto Ramirez-Rosales
Carolina Ramos
Angela Reyes
Ivan Rojas
Daniel Rubin
Natalie Ortiz Soria
Joseph Severino
Francisco Soto

Ashley Thomas
Carolyn Tran
L Tuiletufuga
Tiana Vargas
Naya Velazco
Prizila Vidal
Dustin Walker
Helen Weldeghiorgis
Rick-Arlo Yah Lira
Jenna Zamohi

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