Center Staff

Executive Staff

Chief Executive Officer

Caroline (Cara) Dessert, Esq.

Caroline (Cara) Dessert, Esq. is the Chief Executive Officer of The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Prior to being named CEO, she served as the organization’s Chief Development and Community Engagement Officer.

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 this time, she was also named an Arcus Leadership Fellow.

She served in the California Department of Justice in the Office of the Attorney General as a Deputy Attorney General in the Public Rights Division, Consumer Law Section where she also worked with then-California Attorney General (now U.S. Senator) Kamala Harris’ executive team. Dessert also worked with the U.S. Central District Court and with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

Dessert has deep roots in the San Diego area. A native of El Centro, she previously served as The Center’s public policy and community organizing coordinator, and as San Diego’s field director for the No on 8/Equality for All campaign. She also worked for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.

She completed her JD at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, where she was the editor-in-chief of the Chicana/o Latina/o Law Review and earned degree specializations from the Epstein Public Interest Law and Policy and Critical Race Studies programs. She earned her BA at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD).

Dessert is married to Lisa Valenzuela.

Chief Operating Officer

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.

Chief Financial Officer

Danielle Lopez’s relationship with The Center began when she started volunteering for AIDS Walk and the Women’s Resource Center. She joined The Center’s accounting team in 2005 and stayed on through 2006, at which time she left to accept the position of Financial Officer at eJungle Corporation. Danielle maintained strong ties to The Center through volunteering for Center events and sitting on various planning and advisory committees, eventually earning the M. Corinne Mackey Volunteer of the Year award in 2007. Danielle returned to The Center in 2008 and oversees all aspects of the accounting and finance department. Danielle holds a Masters of Business Administration in Financial Management from National University and a Bachelors of Science in Accountancy. She has more than 15 years of experience in accounting and has been involved in political and community activism since 1994, when she co-founded the non-profit collective Revolution Rising in Los Angeles.

Chief Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Officer

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 spearheads the public policy and justice-focused advocacy efforts on behalf of The Center and the greater LGBT community. Additionally, she leads The Center’s civic engagement and leadership development programs, aimed to empower and build power within the LGBT 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 San Diego Leadership Alliance Board of Directors, a 2013 Alumni of New Leaders Council Institute, and a member of The Center’s Young Professionals Council.

Center Staff

Tanesha Adams
Elisa Barnett
Richard Beas
Karrah Bissett
Collin Boudreaux
Dr. Kurt Buis
Deja Cabrera
Lucero Camarena
Mardi Campbell
Joseph Cannon
Steve Carroll
Leo Cartier
Dr. Patricia Celaya
Rick Cervantes
Emily Clifton

Aliyah Crowder
Nijah Crenshaw
Kelsey Daniels
Beth Davenport
Cara Dessert
Victor Esquivel
LaRue Fields
Natalie Flores
Ricardo Gallego
Jacqueline Gomez
Vanessa Goodwin
Elizabeth Green
Christina Griffin-Jones
Malek Guerbaoui
Pamuela Halliwell
Carter Hantula

Aaron Heier
Rebekah Hook-Held
Ian Johnson 
Sabrina Johnson
Steve Juarez
Alan Kaplan
Christina Laigo
Danielle Lopez
Dorian Macon
Carlos Medina
Megan Meek
Silvia Mejia
Sarah Merk-Benitez  
Cheli Mohamed
Mireya Morales
Alex Ordoubegian

Dom Pacelli
Jacqueline Palmer

Rebecca Palter
Shah Pezeshk
Jon Potter
Carolina Ramos
Hector Roman
Dr. Joe Severino
Cris Sotomayor
Shani Stewart
L Tuiletufuga
Dan Vaci
Tiana D. Vargas
Marla Verdugo
Dustin Walker
Matty Xander
Rick-Arlo Yah Lira

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