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Meet the Team

Executive Staff

CAROLINE (CARA) DESSERT, ESQ .​

Chief Executive Officer

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

A queer Latina, Dessert is an attorney and executive with nearly 20 years in non-profit and social justice leadership. Dessert was previously the executive director of Immigration Equality, a national organization focused on LGBTQ immigrant rights.

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

During her first year as CEO, Dessert led The Center through a phenomenal growth phase. Under her leadership, The Center increased its budget from $6M to $10.2M annually, and service visits to more than 80,000 annually. Along with The Center’s team and Board of Directors, in 2019 The Center engaged in an in-depth community-driven strategic planning process with the participation of over 2,000 community members.

Dessert led The Center in expanding its housing services to a full range housing continuum that includes the first shelter in San Diego County for LGBTQ youth, additional permanent supportive housing and prevention programs, and ongoing services and advocacy for LGBTQ community members who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. The Center also embarked on its 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; started The Center’s Training Institute and Black Services Program; and stood with our transgender and nonbinary community fighting back against the relentless attacks from the Trump Administration with undaunted courage and inspirational authenticity. 

Prior to joining The Center as CEO, Dessert served in the California Department of Justice in the Office of the Attorney General as a Deputy Attorney General in the Public Rights Division, where she worked with then-California Attorney General (now Vice President) Kamala Harris’ executive team.

She has deep roots in the San Diego area. A native of El Centro, she previously was The Center’s Policy and Community Organizing Coordinator, San Diego’s field director for the No on 8/Equality for All campaign, and 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).

She has served as a Commissioner for both the Healthy California for All Commission and the Leon L. Williams San Diego County Human Relations Commission. Dessert is the Chair of the Engage San Diego Advisory Board. She is married to Lisa Valenzuela.

Kim Fountain, PhD

Deputy CEO

Pronouns: She, Her, They, Them

Kim Fountain has 27 years of experience working in the LGBTQ+ movement, and before joining The Center as Deputy CEO, they served as the Chief Administrative Officer for Center on Halsted, the Midwest’s most comprehensive LGBTQ community center.

Prior, Kim was the Executive Director of the Pride Center of Vermont and the Deputy Director of the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. 

Kim is part of the Board of Directors of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and has served on the Board of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Other recent volunteer commitments have included serving on the Board of Commissioners of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, the Chicago Mayor’s Office Advisory Council on Women, and the Chicago Comptroller Community Advisory Council.

Kim holds a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies and Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the New School for Social Research, The Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science. She is a published author and taught Anthropology and Gender Studies for over a decade.

Beth Davenport, DSW, LCSW, MBA

Chief Operating Officer

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Beth Davenport is the Chief Operating Officer at The Center and is responsible for the company’s operations. She has over 20 years of experience in program development, evaluation, and oversight.

Prior to joining The Center in 2011, Beth was the executive director of adoptions and senior director of quality assurance for Walden Family Services. She created Walden’s LGBTQ Foster Care Network, providing safe and loving homes for foster youth who identify as LGBTQ and providing ongoing cultural competency trainings for Southern California foster parents and child welfare providers around the country on how to deliver services with cultural competency and humility.

Beth is a licensed Clinical Social Worker and holds a Doctorate in Social Work from Tulane University and a Master in Business Administration degree from San Diego State University. 

Beth is currently the co-chair of the San Diego Youth Homelessness Consortium and is a board member of the California Coalition for Youth. She also serves on the San Diego County HIV Planning Group. In 2009, Beth was named by the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine to its annual list of “Top 40 under 40,” recognizing her professional accomplishments.

Leadership Team

Steve Carroll

Senior Director of
Behavioral Health Services

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Victor Esquivel

Senior Director of
Housing Services

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Malek Guerbaoui

Senior Director of Quality Assurance and Contract Compliance

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Gus Hernandez

Senior Director of
Communications and Marketing

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Ian Johnson

Senior Director
of Development

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Alex Ordoubegian

Senior Director of
Facility Operations

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Phoenix Schneider

Senior Director of
Programs

Pronouns: he, him, his

Jacqueline Palmer

Senior Director of Executive Planning & Project Management

Pronouns: she, her, hers

Managers and Directors

Camden Aguilera

Youth Services Manager, HYC

She, They

Akemi Bonner

IT Director


She, Her, Hers

Krystal Bradford

Youth Housing Services Manager

She, Her

NATHAN BURNS

GRANTS MANAGER


He, Him, His

Leo Cartier Jr.

Individual Giving Officer

He, Him, His

Jason Cuneo

Senior Services Program Manager

He, Him, His

Jessica Diaz

Senior Manager of Welcome Services

She, her, hers

Angel Gonzalez

Director of Youth Housing Services

He, Him, His

PAMUELA HALLIWELL

Assistant Director of Behavioral Health Services

She, Her, Hers

Carter Hantula

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR of QUALITY ASSURANCe

They, Them

Oscar Humberto-Gomez

Crisis Services Manager

He, Him, His

Delio Ladron de Guevara

Sexual Health and Wellness Manager


He, Him, His

Bill Van Le

Training & Community Education Manager

All Pronouns

Daivon Lloyd

People & Culture Manager

He, Him, His

Megan Meek

Senior Manager, Development & Marketing

She, Her, Hers

Esperanza Mendez

Adult Housing Services Manager

She, her, hers

Sarah Merk-Benitez

Director of Services Integration

She, her, hers

Luis Montero-Adams

Director of Engage San Diego

He, Him, His

Kenyatta Parker

DIRECTOR OF SEXUAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

She, her, hers

Kimi Rahmaan

Black Services Program Manager

They, She

Vaughn Rainwater

Major Gifts
Officer

He, HIm, His

Celya Robles

DIRECTOR OF ADULT HOUSING SERVICES

She, Her, Hers

Ashley Thomas

Youth Housing Services Manager

She, Her, Hers

Jose Tinoco

Director of Youth and Family Services

He, Him, His

David Vance

Senior Manager of advocacy & civic engagement

They, Them

Bliss Vasquez

Transgender and Nonbinary Services Program Manager

they/them/él/friend

Dustin Walker

Clinical Quality ManageR

He, Him, His

CENTER STAFF

Camden Aguilera (She/They)
Carolina Alcoser Ramos (She/Her)
Hannah Anew (She/Her)
Akemi Bonner (She/Her)
Krystal Bradford (She/Her)
Ben Breunig (He/Him)
Nathan Burns (He/Him)
Alejandro Caballero (He/Him)
Mel Cabardo (She/Her)
Eva Callahan (She/Her)
Lee Carmack (They/He)
Steve Carroll (He/Him)
Leo Cartier Jr. (He/Him)
Brian Cash (He/Him)
Castro (She/Her)
Raphael Craan (He/Him)
Jason Cuneo (He/Him)
Beth Davenport (She/Her)
Alisandra Del Nero (She/Her)
Cara Dessert (She/Her)
Jessica Diaz (She/Her)
Juan Esparza (He/They)
Victor Esquivel (He/Him)

Sol S. Faraway (All Pronouns)
Ian Foster (He/Him)
Kim Fountain (She/They)
Angel Gonzalez (He/Him)
Santi Gonzalez (He/They)
Malek Guerbaoui (He/Him)
Jen Haase (She/Her)
Pamuela Halliwell (She/Her)
Matt Hammond (He/Him)
Carter Hantula (They/Them)
Brenda Hernandez (They/Them)
Cristina Hernandez (She/Her)
Gus Hernandez (He/Him)
Jorge Hernandez (He/Him)
Miguel Hernandez (He/Him)
Charlie Huettner (He/Him)
Oscar Humberto-Gomez (He/Him)
Josue Jimenez (He/Him)
Ian Johnson (He/Him)
Jaylen Jones (They/Them)
Stevie Juarez (All Pronouns)
Sarah Kolvas (She/Her)
Jessica Kuang (She/Her)

Delio Ladron De Guevara (He/Him)
Bill Van Le (All Pronouns)
Daivon Lloyd (He/Him)
Julian Lopez (He/They)
Abeni Magee (She/They)
Megan Meek (She/Her)
Esperanza Mendez (She/Her)
Sarah Merk-Benitez (She/Her)
Noah Mixon (They/Them)
Rio Moncado (He/Him)
Alicia Montellanos (All Pronouns)
Luis Montero-Adams (He/Him)
Kianna Moody (They/She)
Aaron Ngan (He/They)
Alex Ordoubegian (He/Him)
Jacqueline Palmer (She/Her)
Kenyatta Parker (She/Her)
Erika Peralta (She/Her)
Brian Raburn (He/Him)
Kimi Rahmaan (They/She)
Vaughn Rainwater (He/Him)
Estevan Ramirez (He/Him)
Anette Ramos (She/They)

Matt Reents (He/Him)
Melisa Reyes (They/Them)
Dalia Rivera (She/They)
Celya Robles (She/Her)
Jesus Sanchez (He/Him)
Phoenix Schneider (He/Him)
Joseph Severino (He/Him)
Isaac Snyder (He/Him)
Bloom Stromberg (She/They)
Victoria Sulak (They/Them)
RJ Tellames (He/Him)
Ashley Thomas (She/Her)
Jose Tinoco (He/Him)
Jose Torres (He/Him)
Richard Truong (He/Him)
L Tuiletufuga (They/Them)
Gabs Urquia (They/Them)
David Vance (They/Them)
Bliss Vasquez (They/He)
Alex Vo (All Pronouns)
Dustin Walker (He/Him)

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