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Theodora Dini

1735

Bold Points

1x

Finalist

1x

Winner

Bio

My name is Theo and my goal is to be an dentist who advocates for their patients. I have always wanted to go into the medical field since I was little, because I saw how much medical professionals have helped me, and I want to do the same for others. I am currently a dental student (just finished up my 1st year), and so I am on the path to reaching my dreams. Student debt is something that I'm worried about, since I am receiving no help from family members in order to attend dental school. Loans are the only way I'm receiving funds, and while I am grateful for them, I would greatly appreciate any scholarships that could help me ensure that I have less stress surrounding the cost of attendance. I'm extremely passionate about LGBTQ+ causes, and mental health. As non-binary lesbian, I know what it feels like when you have no support, be that emotional, financial, or other. When I become a dentist, I want to make sure that all of my patients feel like they can be their true, authentic selves around me.

Education

Temple University

Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)
2022 - 2026
  • Majors:
    • Dentistry
  • GPA:
    3.6

Cabrini University

Bachelor's degree program
2019 - 2023
  • Majors:
    • Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Other
  • GPA:
    4

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

  • Planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Dentistry

    • Dream career goals:

      Dentist

    • Summer Camp Counselor

      Bellevue State Park
      2020 – 20222 years

    Sports

    Volleyball

    Junior Varsity
    2016 – 20193 years

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Mary Campbell Center — Day Camp Counselor
      2018 – 2018
    • Volunteering

      Bellevue State Park — Day Camp Counselor
      2017 – 2020

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
    Eleven-year-old Theo would not believe me if I told them that we were halfway through dental school right now. Come to think of it, nearly all my past selves would be in disbelief to see how well I am doing at this stage of my life. Younger Theo had dreams that they wanted to accomplish, and from the ages of eight to 13, they truly thought they were achievable. However, once I became a teenager, the confidence I had in myself began to diminish. From the perspective of an outsider, my family was picture perfect: two married parents and a younger sister who I loved more than life itself. My entire dad’s side of the family were my neighbors growing up, so we were very close, physically and emotionally. My sister and I were a little bit spoiled as kids, getting nearly everything we wanted for Christmases and birthdays. Unfortunately, all the Barbies in the world could not make up for the emptiness I felt when I started to learn more about myself. Looking back, there were several moments where I should have realized that I was a lesbian. Maybe I should have figured it out when I told my mom I wanted to marry a girl at the age of six. Perhaps it should have been when I made a list of male celebrities that I begged myself to find attractive. Or maybe it was when I finally admitted to myself that I had a massive crush on my high school best friend. Regardless, the realization came to me, and instead of feeling relief, all I felt was fear. My parents never shied away from sharing their opinions with my sister and me. Naturally, growing up and hearing them say that queer people are an abomination was upsetting and discouraging. I could not understand how the way that I loved could cause someone to feel such hatred and disgust. So, around the age of thirteen, I decided that I needed to accomplish absolutely everything to soften the blow for when I eventually came out to them. I never got below an A in any class all through middle school, high school, or college. I took as many AP classes as I could and scored well on the respective exams in May. I completed my first year of dental school while finishing my senior year of college. I even graduated college with a 4.0 GPA. I held a steady job as a camp counselor for years through high school and college. However, as you can probably guess, my list of accolades was not enough to lessen their disappointment. The first time I tried to come out to my parents, I was a senior in high school. After a long, and extremely frustrating, conversation, I was essentially shoved back into the closet. I had many stereotypical phrases hurled at me, and it made me question if I knew myself at all. That day taught me that anything I wanted to achieve, I needed to do it by myself and for myself. When I started college, I started dating my first girlfriend. I found a community of friends that loved and supported me. I finally felt like I was becoming who I was meant to be. Alas, what goes up must eventually come down. During my junior year of college, I was outed to my parents. My dad sent me a text, asking if I could call him when I had a free moment. That 41-minute phone call in late September threw me into a panic attack: what if they disown me? What if I get kicked out of the house? I lived in a constant state of fear for months. When I eventually did visit home for Thanksgiving break, I, begrudgingly, had a conversation with my parents. I won’t repeat what was said, but it was some of the cruelest comments that I had ever heard. The news about my “choices” spread to my entire extended family, against my will. I felt like I had lost control of my life, and no matter what I did, I would never get it back. I experienced lots of suicidal ideation during this time. My dream to become a dentist, the one that had stuck with me since middle school, no longer excited me. I won’t drag out the story in too much detail, but over the next couple of years, I slowly cut off contact with my family. I refuse to put myself in a situation where I am not loved and respected. As I’m writing this, I am a third-year dental student at Temple University, and I have never been more confident in who I am. Going to Pride and making queer friends has made me feel like I belong somewhere. I can honestly say that I love who I am, which is something that my teenage self would not believe. Honoring who I am is something that is incredibly important to me; I’ve learned to find validation and pride within myself. I know that eleven-year-old Theo is ecstatic that I am thriving in dental school, despite all the mental health crises. I put in so much work, not only for 23-year-old myself, but also for all the younger versions of myself. The world is brighter than before, and our dream is closer than we could possibly imagine.
    VNutrition & Wellness’ Annual LGBTQ+ Vitality Scholarship
    12-year old Theo would have never guessed that they would be entering their third year of dental school right now. Honestly, they would be surprised we’ve even made it this far in life. Growing up queer and having ambitious dreams feels like playing a game of tug of war; it’s a constant internal battle of wanting to honor your identity, while also recognizing that to achieve your career goals, you may have to hide pieces of who you are. When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to be a dentist. I had no idea the amount of work and school that it would take for this to happen, but after seeing people’s smiles after getting their braces off or having a chip in their tooth fixed, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I graduated from university with a 4.0 GPA and completed my first year of dental school while also finishing my senior year of college. It was an incredibly difficult and stressful year, but I was very proud of myself for pushing through. In my 23 years of life, I have met only a handful of queer healthcare professionals. Some have helped me tremendously in understanding who I am and how I fit into this world. My old therapist was one of them, and I can honestly say that he changed my life. I think fondly of us talking about queer issues, how to navigate family life, and how to get a job while being authentically myself. He made me feel safe when talking about my mental health, and that’s how I want to make people feel when talking about their oral health. Navigating healthcare as someone who is non-binary is challenging at times; it’s disappointing that I expect my healthcare providers to not use my preferred name or pronouns at appointments. When I graduate dental school in 2 years, I want to create a space for queer and trans people to be fully themselves. I want to hear the words “her wife” and “his husband” in my office when I’m chatting with patients and their families. Most importantly, I want to show the younger queer patients that I see that their dreams are not too big. I know how frustrating it can be to experience a sense of preemptive grief over the future you desire. I want them to know that any dream they have can be a reality, and that they don’t need to hide who they are for that to happen.
    1989 (Taylor's Version) Fan Scholarship
    For me, 2023 has been a year of continuous growth, learning, and changing. I moved into a new apartment in January by myself, all while continuing to study for all my dental school classes. I made incredible friends and lost some relationships I cared deeply about, but the one consistent aspect of 2023 was Taylor Swift's prevalence in my life. So when she announced that she was rerecording 1989, to say I was excited would be a gross understatement. Let's back up a little bit. I've been a "swiftie" since Taylor was in her country era, and she's grown up with me my whole life. A bad breakup? Taylor was there to pick me up or let me sulk (whatever I was keen to that day). Getting ready to go out and celebrate? Taylor's single "Shake It Off" was there to hype me up as I sifted through my makeup bag. The vastness of her music has allowed me to feel every emotion significantly deeper than I thought possible. 2023 has been a year of love and loss. As I discovered more about myself and what I consider important, I inevitably lost people in my life. The acquisition of my desires would not have been possible without those losses and for that reason, "Now That We Don't Talk" would absolutely be on my soundtrack for 2023. This is one of Taylor's vault songs, and in it, she describes all of the feelings that follow the end of a relationship. Perhaps most importantly, this aforementioned relationship does not have to be romantic; sometimes some of the worst breakups are platonic. I'm not a stranger to loss. When I was 20, I was outed to my family. One moment I was sitting at my desk studying for an exam, and one 41-minute phone call later, I was sitting and shaking. It felt like a rug had been pulled out from under my feet. Over the next few years, the relationships I had with my family members were ruined, lost even. It became increasingly difficult to speak to them about anything happening in my life. One day this past year, I decided that I no longer wanted to speak or socialize with them, and since then, I have found a better sense of peace. Taylor wrote about this feeling in "Now That We Don't Talk", expressing "I called my mom she said that it was for the best". Some of the hardest lessons that I've learned have happened due to the loss of a relationship, and while it was painful for a long time, it's comforting to know that the grief has become more manageable. Taylor did an excellent job capturing the feelings and worries that come with ending a relationship in "Now That We Don't Talk". The "what ifs" have not completely stopped, but they are fewer and further between. As Taylor sang, I have to "remind myself the more I gave, you'd want me less". Sacrificing my needs is not something that I have to do, or will do, for that matter. Despite all the challenges that this year has thrown at me, I always try to think WWTD (what would Taylor do)? I think she'd shake it off.
    Bold.org x Forever 21 Scholarship + Giveaway
    @theo.dini
    Future Dentists Scholarship
    The sound of drills and soft chatter filled the air as I walked into my orthodontist’s office to have my braces tightened. Turning the corner, I saw my orthodontist taking a picture with someone who had just gotten their braces off. Upon seeing the picture, her face lit up and she instantly looked more confident and happy with herself. I got my braces off two years later, and got to take a picture with my orthodontist. When I saw myself smiling without braces for the first time in years, I felt happier than I could have put into words. I knew I wanted to make others feel like I did, and that is when my interest in pursuing dentistry began. Helping other people become a better version of themselves has always been something that I enjoy. Whether it was tutoring peers for a class or helping a friend navigate a difficult situation, connecting with others has always been a goal of mine. As someone shy, especially growing up, I had doubts that my introversion would hold me back from building rapport. However, my volunteer work throughout high school and into my undergrad years was the experience that I needed to prove to myself that I was more than capable of working well with others and helping them improve themselves. I have been fortunate enough to work with kids in a dental setting. The summer after my sophomore year of college, I shadowed my childhood dentist, Dr. Rachel Maher, whom I had been going to since I was seven. I was able to see kids who had just barely turned two, all the way up to kids who were graduating in a week get their teeth examined and fixed. For the first few days, I helped with bringing patients back, holding their hands during procedures, and talking through X-rays with the parents. After a couple of days of watching cavities get removed and teeth getting extracted, I was allowed to assist with a filling. While it may have been a simple procedure for my dentist, it was exhilarating to me. I could see the shape of the tooth coming together as the putty was shaped and dried, and the tooth was polished. When the girl looked in the mirror, she smiled at herself and her mom, and thanked both the dentist and myself. This was my first hands-on dental experience, and I felt happy to have gotten a glimpse into a day in the life of my future career. A career in dentistry will allow me to combine my love for science with my passion for helping others. I have seen, and experienced, how a smile can impact a person so significantly; I don’t have too many pictures of myself with my teeth showing from before my dental work, but after I got my braces off, I smiled with teeth in almost all my pictures. Now that I'm starting my second year of dental school, this scholarship would allow me to continue to reach my dreams. I want to be the person who gets to see the patient’s first smile after all the work is done. I want to be able to make a difference in their lives by improving the one gesture that is universally acknowledged as an expression of happiness; a smile.
    Christina Taylese Singh Memorial Scholarship
    My name is Theo Dini and I am a second-year dental student at Temple University. Being a dentist has been a dream of mine since I was 10 years old. When I was younger, I had almost every dental appliance you could think of, and I am incredibly grateful for the help I received from the dentists and orthodontists in my life. They helped me to feel more confident in my smile, which is something that I have often thought back on during my first year of dental school. My journey to this point in my life was a bit unconventional. I am a 3+4 applicant, which meant that I completed my senior year of college while also going through my first year of dental school. Many of the people in my life were incredibly proud of me for getting closer to my dreams, and while I was grateful for that, the only person I wanted to be proud of me was my younger self. Growing up, I was often made to feel as though my dreams were too outlandish. I felt as though everything about myself was too much for others to handle, when in reality, all I desired was someone to listen, really listen, to me. I remember feeling fear going to healthcare professionals with my parents because I could never be truly honest with them. Being my authentic self felt dangerous. I came out to myself when I was in high school, but coming out to my parents when I was 17 was a difficult experience that made me question who I was. However, when I turned 18, and could finally have more privacy with my healthcare providers, I felt an immense sense of relief. Being able to share my insecurities without being mocked for having them was a feeling I had been searching for for years. Being open with these doctors allowed me to reach levels of confidence I never thought possible. As I'm going through my years of schooling, and interacting with classmates and patients alike, I realize more and more that feeling understood, especially when in a vulnerable state, is priceless. I want to be able to make people feel how my doctors and dentists made me feel as a teenager. Making connections and meeting other queer dentists has given me hope that even though there will be challenges and obstacles to face, I will be able to overcome them. I want to give my patients the most radiant smiles so that they can feel a bit more like their truest selves. Now that I can be so authentically myself, I know that I can help others feel that way too.
    Eras Tour Farewell Fan Scholarship
    I have been a Taylor Swift fan since she put out her debut album. I have vivid memories of riding the bus in elementary school and singing along to "Mean" with my childhood best friend. When I went through a difficult breakup in college, her album "evermore" wrapped me in a hug and helped me get through it. It's safe to say that Taylor Swift has impacted my life significantly. In November of 2022, I was extremely lucky and was able to purchase 3 tickets to Taylor Swift's Eras Tour in Philadelphia for me and my 2 friends. I had never seen her in concert before, so to say that I was excited would be a dramatic understatement. May 14th, 2023 is a day that I will never forget. Taylor's performance was impeccable, the costumes were outstanding, and the energy from the crowd was infectious. One aspect that was particularly important to me that day was that it was Mother's Day. I had never really had a great relationship with my mom, and after coming out, it only got worse. Mother's Day had always been a tough day for me, and so I was a bit worried that my past with this particular holiday would dull my experience at Taylor's show. In fact, the opposite happened. When Taylor was giving her speech during "champagne problems", she talked about her mom, and how much she loved and appreciated her. She then went on to say that she recognizes some people have complex relationships with the word "mom", or mothers in general. Taylor explained that a mother doesn't have to be the biological person that nursed you since birth, but rather, a mother is someone who has cared for you when you needed guidance, acceptance, and support. I sobbed during most of her speech, but thankfully I got it on video. I'm even more thankful that I was standing between my two best friends at that moment, who reached over, put their arms around me, and said "I love you unconditionally". That is one moment I will never forget. During her surprise song segment, Taylor played "The Best Day" on piano, a song off of her album Fearless, which she wrote for her mom. It's tradition for her to play this song on Mother's Day (if she's on tour), and after her earlier speech, this song held a new meaning for me. Taylor's Eras Tour helped me gain a new perspective on Mother's Day as a holiday. Even though I did not have a good relationship with my mother, that does not mean that I don't have positive maternal figures in my life. When my parents did not come to my college graduation, all my friends' parents were there to congratulate me and tell me how proud they were. When I went through a difficult breakup, my mentor that I worked with helped me to process the pain and understand how to move on. During the most difficult times of my life, Taylor Swift and her music have always provided a sense of comfort that I wish I had growing up. And now, as I'm living in a big, old city, and listening to Speak Now (Taylor's Version), I recognize that I would not be in the position I am without Taylor and her music. I had the best day with Taylor Swift and I am so incredibly lucky to have grown up with her.
    Mind, Body, & Soul Scholarship
    I am a second-year dental student, so stress is like an annoying roommate; always there, and I can't get rid of it, so I might as well learn to live with it. Throughout college, when I was a bit less stressed, I used to do pilates, something that I started doing with my mom when I was in high school because she wanted me to lose weight. However, this led me to develop and terrible eating disorder, and I had to work to get myself out of that situation. The most exciting part about dental school is that I am finally taking the steps that I need to become a dentist. This has been my dream since I was 10, and I'm now 22, so this has been the result of a lot of hard work. While school is one of my main priorities, I want to develop a healthy relationship with my body and with food as well. Throughout my final years of undergrad, as well as during my first year of dental school, I believe that I found ways to maintain a healthy mind, body, and soul, despite the intense stress I was facing. During my junior year of college, I started weightlifting as a means of exercise. I ended up falling in love with it, and instead of focusing my energy on wanting to be skinny, I started to focus on wanting to get stronger. I began hitting PR after PR, and I never looked back. I wanted to get as strong as possible, and I knew that I would have to be patient. I started to focus on my diet as well, and not in the way that I had previously. Instead of restricting most foods, which would then ultimately lead to binging, I started learning how to cook things I enjoyed. I focused on getting enough protein at every meal and made room for the foods that were more nutritious for my soul, rather than my body. I finally started seeing the results that I was looking for during my first year of dental school, and I was so proud of myself for sticking with it. In order to keep my mind healthy, I like to journal and do tarot spreads, which help me focus my energy. I've recently started meditating as well, and this allows me to spend a few minutes of my day focused on nothing but my breath. I used to go to therapy in college, which was tremendously helpful, but had to stop due to financial reasons. The lessons I learned during therapy were very helpful, and I still use them to this day. To keep my soul healthy, I always spend at least half an hour a day doing activities that I enjoy. These typically include crocheting, playing guitar, painting, or listening to a podcast while lying in the sun. I have found that taking frequent breaks, especially during the most stressful of times, is critical. It helps me to do better in school as well. Overall, spending time taking care of myself has become more of a priority over the years, and I am grateful that I have recognized my worth.
    Elijah's Helping Hand Scholarship Award
    Winner
    If I could tell 13-year-old, closeted Theo, that we are alive and thriving in dental school, and that we're out and proud, they would not believe me. Even 19-year-old Theo, struggling to get through college during a pandemic, would not believe that we are in dental school. I first started to question my sexuality around the end of middle school; I tried to write off this crush I had on my friend as a "friend crush", but once I got to high school, I couldn't deny it anymore. When I was a sophomore in high school, I tentatively came out to my friends over text as bisexual, and they were very supportive. Over the next few years, I started coming out to more and more people, except for my family, who I knew wouldn't be supportive. During my freshman year of college, I started dating my first girlfriend. I am so grateful that I was in this relationship; I learned so much about myself, who I was, and what I wanted out of my life. I came out as a lesbian when I was a sophomore in college, and also came out as non-binary. Figuring out my identity was something absolutely essential to my well-being. As wonderful as being myself was, it was made more difficult by some of the people in my life. I was not out to my parents; the only people in my family that I had come out to at this point were my sister, younger cousin, and one of my aunts. I went through an incredibly tough couple of months during my sophomore year of college, and this culminated in a mental health crisis. In March of 2021, I tried to take my own life. It was a scary time, and I don't like to think about it too much, but it was an alarming time for me and my girlfriend at the time. I never told anyone about it except my close friends and my girlfriend; I knew that the backlash I'd receive from my family members would only harm me more. I started therapy after this experience, and my queer therapist was one of the people who saved my life. I owe him so much, and I have never been more grateful for a human being. Things seemed to be getting better, but in the fall of my junior year of college, I was outed to my parents. The 44-minute phone call with my dad, after my parents learned this information, drained everything out of me, and I felt physically ill for weeks on end. Thank god for my friends, my therapist, and my girlfriend at the time, because without them, I would not have made it out of that situation alive. I experienced some of the worst verbal and emotional harassment during that year of college; I even experienced my first breakup. But I made it out alive, and now, as I'm writing this, I can confidently say that I have never been prouder of myself. Being a lesbian and being non-binary sometimes makes me feel like I'm an outsider; like there's no place I belong. But with the support of my friends, I have been able to live authentically in a way that makes me so happy. I wish that 13-year-old Theo could see me now; they would be so incredibly proud of me. I hope they know I'm proud of them too.
    Taylor Swift ‘1989’ Fan Scholarship
    My favorite song on 1989 is You Are In Love, one of the songs included in the deluxe version of Taylor Swift's album. The melody of this song is quite simple, and the average listener might write this song off as nothing special, but they are wrong. The lyrics of this song are the star of the show, and reading through them makes this clear. Taylor manages to perfectly capture the essence of being in love; it's not about the grand gestures, but about the small moments that remind us how special love is. One particular lyric in the first verse reads "He says, "Look up" / And your shoulders brush / No proof, one touch / But you felt enough". As someone who has fallen in love, this is arguably one of my favorite lyrics in her song. No proof, no spoken words of "I love you", but the feeling is there; the warmness that buries itself inside you is present. When I first fell in love and was scared to say the words out loud, this song helped me tremendously; I wasn't sure my girlfriend at the time felt the same way, but it was in those little moments, the stolen glances and the way our hands brushed together, that I knew they felt the same way I did. This idea is echoed in Taylor's chorus, which reads "You can hear it in the silence, silence ... You are in love, true love". It's an absolutely beautiful sentiment, knowing that the love, the true love, is there even when no words are spoken. Falling in love is scary, especially when you've fallen for the wrong people in your past. Taylor captures this feeling perfectly in her second verse, which reads "You keep his shirt / He keeps his word / And for once, you let go / Of your fears and your ghosts / One step, not much / But it said enough". She finally feels like she's able to open up to her lover and expose her most vulnerable self, taking a step outside of her comfort zone. For once, she is able to loosen the grasp she has on her traumatic past and allow herself to live in this relationship as her true, authentic self. The first healthy relationship after a string of unhealthy ones feels bizarre; there's no guessing, and there's no walking on eggshells around one another. There's only peace and comfort. Perhaps the most heart-warming lyric in this song comes in the bridge, which reads "[referring to falling in love]...And why I've spent my whole life tryin' to put it into words". As long as I can remember, adults have told me "When you're in love, you just know. I can't put it into words. It's just a gut feeling". As a songwriter, Taylor has written many a song about love, but none quite like this one. The feeling of being in love is nearly impossible to put into words, but she does it justice in this song. 'You Are In Love' is a masterpiece that beautifully illustrates the soul of every loving relationship: you know your partner, your best friend, loves you, not because of their words, but because of their actions. Actions may speak louder than words, but Taylor Swift's words in this song are an act of love in and of itself.