Even someone who doesn't see himself as a leader can make a difference by using his talents.

by Patty Catalano


“I hate meetings. That’s not what I’m good at,” Mike Trim will tell you. But PTO leaders at St. Philip the Apostle School in Pasadena, Calif., aren’t worried. They know he’s probably helping out with the school’s newsletter or website, or perhaps a grant application and the latest school brochure. Or maybe he’s at home producing another video to motivate bidders at the annual dinner auction, which raised $140,000 last year.

“I love being able to help out in a way that is actually fun and challenging to me,” says Trim, a professional cinematographer and father of Nate, 12, a 7th grader, and Emma, 15, a St. Philip graduate.

Trim’s career has taken him into the depths of a Louisiana salt mine, around the crater of a volcano in Hawaii, and to the top of the Chrysler building in New York. He’s worked on music videos for Madonna, and in 1995 he won an MTV award for the Rolling Stones’ “Love Is Strong” video. His motion picture film credits include Angel Heart and Mississippi Burning.

“So much of parent volunteer work is drudgery and parents just want to get that commitment out of the way, but I’m able to take something I do and help out,” Trim says.

Not surprisingly, in fall 2004 he “hopped at the opportunity” to travel to Calcutta, India, for his PTO’s Christian service committee, which wanted to assist a charitable program called the Society for the Encouragement of Education and Development. Trim was asked to photograph children to raise awareness about SEED’s mission and to show how families at St. Philip could help.

An anonymous donor paid for Trim’s travel, including airfare, lodging, immunization shots, and a visa. The itinerary was arranged by a priest in Calcutta who had connections to St. Philip. “The schedule was crazy,” Trim recalls. “We’d leave about 6:30 in the morning and begin to make our way to two or three schools or villages in a day, visit, have a snack, tea, drive some more and see another school, have tea.” He spent a few nights at a hotel; the other nights, he lodged at a bishop’s rectory and a school.

A tour through one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages stands out. “There had to be 150 cribs just bunched together,” he reports. “As soon as [the orphans] saw a stranger, they just swarmed you....It breaks your heart.”

After returning home, Trim produced a film that captured the hundreds of children he’d met throughout Calcutta. The film is shown each year to the school’s 8th graders, who share SEED’s mission with other students. The entire student body is then encouraged to do chores or donate their allowances throughout the year; the money collected is sent to the Asansol Diocese in Calcutta.

“We want our students to be aware of the needs of others, to think beyond themselves and their own needs, and to feel empowered to pitch in and help out,” says principal Jennifer Ramirez. “Mike’s video is the starting point for all of these goals, and we are very grateful to him for his contribution.”

Trim, however, sees it differently. “SEED is a bunch of people,” he insists. “I’m no leader; all I did was say yes when somebody asked me if I wanted to go to India and take some pictures. It sounded like a good adventure.”

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