Staff

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 coleary@starpal.org 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
pdawson@starpal.org
 
or (619) 515-2706.

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 mmak@starpal.org 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
efheigert@pd.sandiego.gov
 or (619) 531-2718.

Jeffrey Peterson-
STAR/PAL Lieutenant, City of San Diego Police Department
San Diego Police Lieutenant Jeffrey Peterson has been with the Department since 1994.  Prior to joining the STAR/PAL team in May 2018, Lieutenant Peterson was assigned to the Training Unit for just under three years where he managed In-Service Training, the Academy, the Police Range, Field Training Administration and the Mass Threat Unit.  Lieutenant Peterson started his career working patrol in Western and Eastern Divisions for just under twelve years.  He was a Field Training Officer for six of those years.  After being promoted to Sergeant, he was assigned to Northeastern Division and eventually made his way to Northwestern Division to form the Centralized Telephone Report Unit.  His last four years as a sergeant were spent in Internal Affairs.  He was promoted to Lieutenant in August 2014 and was assigned to Northeastern Division for a year before being transferred to Training.  Lieutenant Peterson has lived in San Diego for 45 years and he currently lives in University City with his wife and two kids (ages 15 and 14).  His life currently centers around trying to attend all of his kids’ sporting events and his passion for law enforcement.  He has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, San Diego as well as minors in U.S. History and Computer Science.  Lieutenant Peterson can be reached at jppeterson@pd.sandiego.gov 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, and a Master’s degree in Leadership from USD.  Sgt. Clendenen can be reached at tclendenen@pd.sandiego.gov 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 camezcua@pd.sandiego.gov 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 ana.pina@sdcounty.ca.gov 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 jonescl@pd.sandiego.gov 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 drmills@pd.sandiego.gov or (619) 533-5795.