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Rising Stars: Meet Aileen Orlino Dinkjian, Ed.D., MPH

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aileen Orlino Dinkjian, Ed.D., MPH.

Hi Aileen, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Well, for starters, when I tell people my name or where I’m from, people start singing, “Come on Eileen” or “Born in East LA.” By all means, please don’t ask me what I call a girl with one leg. Yes, I’ve heard this joke a billion times in my life. I was born in East LA, but for the most part, I grew up in Chino, where I went to high school at Don Antonio Lugo and was just an avid volunteer. Volunteering is pretty much the theme of my life. I just can’t sit still as I always felt the need to do something bigger than myself. I’m a very passionate person when it comes to my family, friends, health, politics, or community. I have a very innate nature of just wanting to see other people smile and be happy.

So I have this tendency to do things thinking that if I don’t do it, then who will? It’s funny because I got my first job working for the City of Chino, and I originally asked the person I volunteered with for a letter of reference to work at a Baskin Robbins.
His response to me was, “since you volunteer here so much, why don’t you just come work for us? We might as well pay you.” My experience working for the City encouraged me to major in Political Science at Cal Poly Pomona. Going to Cal Poly Pomona was probably the best decision I ever made in my life. When I was in college, the CSU system was not equipped with all the resources that many private universities had. So we fought for resources, and I learned how to be a better listener and communicator by mustering up the courage to speak with congressional representatives and senators regarding issues that mattered the most to me at that time. I also gained a lot of exposure to politics by participating in the National Model United Nations competition team and the Semester In Washington Program (SIW). Through SIW, I interned at political fundraising firms and an NGO, advocating for funding and fundamental human rights. With a mix of my local government and volunteer experiences, from there, I unknowingly embarked on a career in civic engagement and public health. I was a Community Services Leader and Specialist working at after-school programs, and after college, I became the coordinator of a healthy communities program called “Healthy Chino.”

After five years working for the City of Chino, I decided to get a formal education in public health, and I ended up getting my MPH at the George Washington University. So this is where my story starts to get colorful. I’m in grad school, working towards a career in public health, but I landed a job working for the federal government at the U.S. Department of Justice, and later I was recruited to be a federal government consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. On top, I was a research assistant at GW and also worked as a server and bartender on the weekends. We can call that my DC voyage.

Because of the experiences I gained while I was on the east coast, I am now voyaging in Los Angeles as a research manager at USC. More recently, I became more active in the entrepreneurship side to pivot our small hospitality and event staffing business temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Today, I’m very passionate about supporting research endeavors that will lead to innovative treatments and diagnostics and evidence-based practices that will prevent prevalent diseases in our community and promote healthy lifestyles. At the same time I feel as though we can always be more than one thing, and I embrace every opportunity I get to simply be present in every aspect of everything that life has to offer. So here I am today, a wife, mom of two kids and two furry pomeranians, working at USC, while volunteering to administer COVID-19 tests and vaccines, supporting many Filipino-American causes that I care about and all the while slaying a side hustle with our family business, Top Notch Staffing, Inc. and running a decadent dessert buffet business called Dessert Me Pretty.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Let’s say that nothing always goes the way you had planned it or hoped for. I was 24 when I decided to go back to grad school in Washington, D.C., and move out of my house. It was scary trying to figure a lot of things out on your own for the first time. When you’re in your 20’s you do a lot of growing up, and the next thing you know, you’re this grown adult who has hit maturity at a different level. After five years of pushing myself to the limit on the east coast, I decided to come back to LA with new aspirations to pursue. Having gone through a very stressful work environment, I was diagnosed with alopecia areata, where I lost a patch of my hair due to extreme stress caused by situational trauma. Coming back to LA was my way of “finding myself” again after feeling that I had changed from the person I was before leaving California. I had to figure out how to alleviate the stress I was undergoing at that time and just simply heal. Of course, life wasn’t as cookie-cutter as I had wanted it to be. I went through heartbreaking moments at that time, for which I could not understand or fathom. It led me to channel my energy towards meeting new people, spending more time with my grandparents, and reconnecting with old friends. I had to keep myself busy to prevent myself from falling trap in feeling cynical about things that had happened in the past and accept the unknown of my future. I’m the type of person who always knows what my next five steps will be, and when I felt like my next steps were not going to be my next steps, it just made me feel lost and uncertain for the first time. Yet, for the first time, I just let the unknown take its course where I just volunteered my time for the Los Angeles Medical Reserve Corps and participated in various Hollywood events just because. At some point, I persevered and learned that it was ok not to have a plan. As time went on, I had no plans of being married in the summer of 2014 where a fire broke out and Fox News crashed my wedding, starting a family business in 2015, having two children by 2016, losing my grandparents within six months of each other in 2017, starting a doctoral program in 2018, meeting Kobe Bryant in 2019, and then going through this pandemic in 2020. This past year was certainly the most challenging but also the best blessing in disguise. At the beginning of 2020, USC had sent many of us to work from home and I had to make some life adjustments. Our company, Top Notch Staffing, Inc. temporarily closed because there were no events or need for hospitality staff. I, unfortunately, did not have a graduation ceremony for completing my doctoral program, and my daughter had to start kindergarten through distance learning. All the while, I spent more time with my kids, bolstered our sister company, Dessert Me Pretty, by creating decadent desserts throughout the holidays. I also had the opportunity to be out in the community to help administer COVID-19 tests and vaccines and be at a place that made me finally feel at home after so many years.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’m somewhat of an esoteric misfit, and I was born to live up to the acronym of my name – advocate, innovator, leader, educator, entrepreneur, and nurturer. First and foremost, being present and building a stable foundation for my children is my number one priority. I believe that to take care of them, I have to do my best to take care of the community where they live, which is here in Los Angeles County. For the past nine years, I have dedicated my life to supporting important biomedical research at USC. I have an extreme passion for providing a space for community members to partake in leadership opportunities to provide input in science and medicine. I’m also a professional development speaker where I help young professionals and students gain perspectives on navigating challenges in launching their careers. Part of the talks I give involves being a professional networker. We need to know how we are perceived in society before entering the arena with a group of individuals who may have a predisposed position about us.

I have also helped my husband launch our family business as the Director of Operations for Top Notch Staffing, Inc. in 2015. A year later, I became the owner and founder of Dessert Me Pretty, a dessert buffet service to help bring dream desserts alive through decadent displays and desserts.

Top Notch Staffing Inc. assists companies with hiring challenges, demands, and cost control by locating, screening, and providing exceptional talent in the hospitality industry. The company was founded as a concierge to bringing the best hospitality staff to work at high profiled events in Los Angeles County.

TNS, Inc. provides:
– Staff dressed in professional attire
– Efficient banquet servers (set-up and clean-up crew included)
– Talented and experienced bartenders
– Food/bar runners
– Captains
– Chefs/line cooks/prep cooks
– Food truck chefs/cooks
– Dishwashers and scullery

All staff are trained and certified to handle food and beverages. TNS, Inc. services:
– Weddings
– Birthdays
– Bar/Bat Mitzvahs
– Funerals
– University events
– Anniversaries
– Luncheons
– Receptions
– Corporate events
– Festivals
– Food trucks
– Residential/backyard parties
– Banquet parties
– Galas
– Fundraisers
– More!

Dessert Me Pretty is specialized in designing and planning dream dessert/candy buffets for all types of occasions. From accents to trims, to specialty jars and serving plates, DMP has a keen eye for making dessert bars and buffets attractive and precisely the way you dream of it to be. Basic services include:
– Variety of unique stands and jars (rental included)
– Design of the dessert buffet
– Consultation of themes and personalized customizations
– Décor of the buffet, ribbons, signage and props
– Linens for the table (rental included)
– Candy scoops and tongs (rental included)
– Take out candy bags and ties
– Theme accessories. – fabric, candle, floral (rental included)
– Delivery and set up of buffet
– One-hour round trip travel time is included in the rental fee.

More recently, DMP has been working with TNS, Inc. chefs and bakers to sell simple desserts, including hot cocoa bombs during chilly nights in LA.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
I love LA. It’s my home and I can’t picture myself anywhere else where every turn you look, you see someone creating something special in Highland Park or someone creating the perfect cup of coffee at a local bakery shop. We have many dreamers in our City and part of the reason I started Dessert Me Pretty was because I loved seeing people’s dreams come true. As I had mentioned before, I love planning and just merely taking the next steps knowing where I’m headed. However, when I’m unable to do that myself personally, I find joy in hearing other people’s stories and planning things out with them in hopes that I can help fulfill their dreams. The diversity we have in our community is precious and something we all should embrace with open arms. What I least like about our City is, of course, seeing the many folks living on the streets, which breaks my heart. I hope I can find a way to do my part and help make their dreams come true, whatever that may be.

Pricing:

  • Hot Cocoa Bombs $4 each, 4 for $16, 6 for $22, 12 for $42
  • Adult smash cake for $30 plus surprise inside
  • Contact Top Notch Staffing, Inc. for service pricing
  • Contact Dessert Me Pretty for service pricing.

Contact Info:

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