Claire O'LearyClaire O’Leary –
Executive Director
Claire was promoted to Executive Director at STAR/PAL in 2017. Having joined the organization in 2012 as the Program Partnership and Resource Coordinator, her passion for the community and public safety led to her growth within the ranks. Claire was promoted to Director of Communications and Special Events in 2013, followed by a period as Interim Executive Director in 2015 prior to her promotion to full-time Executive Director.

Raised in San Diego, Claire comes from a background in athletics having played lacrosse at Santa Clara University, and working for the San Diego State Athletic Department in Marketing and Development from 2010-2012. She has worked in public safety as a Lifeguard I for the City of Del Mar since May of 2006 and is a certified EMT. Claire can be contacted at or (619) 531-2559.

Portia Dawson

Portia Dawson – Director of
Program Partnerships
A native of Ohio and mother of two adult daughters, Portia began her days at STAR/PAL as a mentor for the Mentoring Youth for Tomorrow (MYT) program, during which time she was named STAR/PAL’s “Volunteer of the Year.” Portia graduated from Ashford University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Criminal Justice. She has a background in mental health services and has previously worked with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation – Juvenile Parole Office, the San Diego Center for Children, and community based mental health treatment in Ohio. Portia came to STAR/PAL in 2011 to begin a long term leadership program. The Making Changes program is based on community service and civic engagement. Portia has partnered with several community based organizations in San Diego and this community engagement is shown through her dedication to promoting a safe and healthy environment for our youth to succeed. Portia is also a representative of the National Police Athletic/Activity League and currently sits on the Board of Directors, representing 9 states and 57 PALs. Portia’s passion for youth and community will continue to be one of the most important things in her life. Portia can be reached at
or (619) 515-2706.

CourtneyCourtney Photo 2 Dalcour –
Director of Operations and Finance
Courtney joined STAR/PAL in November 2015 as the Special Events Manager until promoting to the Director of Operations and Finance in October 2017. She is a San Diego native and grew up playing competitive sports, specifically softball. Courtney decided to move to Eugene, Oregon to attend the University of Oregon to obtain a degree in Sports Marketing. Go Ducks! Upon graduating college, she interned with the San Diego Chargers and then worked with Lincoln Military Housing providing free events for local military families. Courtney is married to a naval sailor stationed in San Diego and enjoys traveling, playing softball, watching sports, being with family and going to plays. Courtney can be reached at or (619) 533-5720.

Madora Mak – Special Events Manager
The newest member of the team, Madora joined STAR/PAL as the Special Events Manager in November 2017. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio and attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL on a tennis scholarship. She studied International Business and discovered her passion to work in the sports industry while interning at the Tampa Bay Rays. After college, running became her favorite hobby, which brought her to sunny San Diego 3.5 years ago to produce endurance events around the US. She loves to travel and enjoys inspiring others to step out of their comfort zone and try something new. Madora can be reached at or (619) 533-5716.

Ellen Heigert – Office Manager
Ellen has managed daily office operations since permanently joining STAR/PAL in February 2017. Her experience as a civil servant in various public agencies includes supporting office operations, outreach and special events for Mental Health, Alcohol & Drug Programs and Emergency Medical Services for the County of San Diego as well as for the public school system. Ellen can be reached at
 or (619) 531-2718.

Tony Lessa-
STAR/PAL Lieutenant, City of San
Diego Police Department
Lieutenant Tony Lessa has been a member of the San Diego Police Department since 1993. He spent  six  years  in  the  United  States  Marine  Corps before  joining  the  police  department.  Lieutenant  Lessa  spent  the first eleven years of his career working patrol,  mainly serving the North  Park  and  University  Heights  communities. He was a Field Training Officer,  SWAT officer  and  a  sniper  before  being selected to work on the Department’s Executive Protection Detail  guarding the Mayor and City Council Members. He was promoted to sergeant in 2009 where he worked patrol in Central Division before moving to the Internal Affairs Unit.  He was promoted  to  lieutenant  in March of 2016 and worked as the Investigations / Juvenile Services Lieutenant at  Northern Division. Lieutenant Lessa can be reached at  or (619) 531-2747.

Tammy Clendenen –
STAR/PAL Sergeant, City of San Diego Police Department
Sergeant Tammy Clendenen has been a member of the San Diego Police Department since 2006. She spent eight years of her career working patrol in the Southeastern and Mid-City Divisions. She worked as a detective in Mid City Juvenile Services, Western Division and Homicide before returning to patrol as a Sergeant in 2016. Prior to becoming an officer, she served in the Marine Corps and has a Bachelor’s degree in History from U.C. Berkeley. She will finish her Master’s degree in Leadership from USD in the fall of 2018.  Sgt. Clendenen can be reached at or (619) 515-2701.

carlosamezcuaCarlos Amezcua –
STAR/PAL Officer, City of San
Diego Police Department
San Diego Police Officer Carlos Amezcua has been with the department since 1996 and joined STAR/PAL in February of 2009. Prior to joining the police department, Officer Amezcua worked two years for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department as a Correctional Deputy. Since joining the police department, he has been assigned to the Crime Suppression Team and the Juvenile Services Team. Officer Amezcua was also a D.A.R.E. instructor, teaching the Elementary School Safety Program in Spanish. In 2005, the National Latino Police Officer’s Association recognized Office Amezcua and named him the “Latino Police Officer of the Year.” That same year, STAR/PAL named him “Volunteer of the Year.” Officer Amezcua can be reached at or (619) 531-1501.

Ana Diaz-Pina – Senior Probation Officer, County of San Diego Probation Department
San Diego County Probation Officer Ana Diaz Pina has been with San Diego Probation Department since 2005. Prior to joining the STAR/PAL team in March of 2015, Officer Diaz- Pina worked with the Mandatory Supervision Division out of the Central Region. She has worked at East Mesa Juvenile Hall as a Correctional Officer, Hall of Justice in Investigations, and at the South Bay Probation Office in the High Risk and Post Release Community Supervision units. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership Management. Officer Diaz-Pina enjoys playing soccer and spending quality time with her family. Ana can be reached at or (619) 531-2715.

Chris Jones –
STAR/PAL Officer, City of San
Diego Police Department
San Diego Police Officer Chris Jones was been with the department since 2014 and joined the STAR-PAL team in 2017. Prior to joining the San Diego Police Department, Officer Jones worked five years with the Atlanta Police Department. Since joining the department Officer Jones has been awarded numerous accommodations for his work in the Mid-City and Southeastern community. Officer Jones grew up in the Southeastern community and graduated from Serra High School where he participated in football, baseball, basketball and track & field. He attended Mesa College before earning a full scholarship in track & field to California State Los Angeles.  Officer Jones graduated with a degree in sociology and returned to San Diego to work at New Alternatives Treatment center for kids. Officer Jones also worked at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Georgia counseling kids who were victims of sexual assault and ChildKind placement agency providing care for kids considered medically fragile. Officer Jones can be reached at or (619) 531-2721.

denise2Denise Mills –
STAR/PAL Officer, City of San
Diego Police Department

San Diego Police Officer Denise Mills has been with the department since 2000. Prior to joining the STAR/PAL team in 2010, Officer Mills served on Southeastern Patrol for over 10 years, worked with Vice and Juvenile Services, and was an Acting Detective within the department.  Officer Mills was awarded a Special Commendation for being a valuable member of the community from Council Member Marti Emerald, and has been named the department “Employee of the Month” a number of times.  Officer Mills is a San Diego native and has a great passion for helping better her community. Officer Mills can be reached at or (619) 533-5795.