Leaning forward in a wheeled desk chair on the 35th floor of the Cathedral of Learning, Daly Trimble looked up from her organic chemistry notes, with a surprisingly warm smile on her face that never faded as she talks about feminism, faith and community engagement.
North Oakland, Squirrel Hill and Shadyside stretch out in the window behind her — and in the distance, Millvale.
Trimble helps address the concerning lead levels in Millvale’s water, researching the uses of lead filters and trying to determine the best way to move forward.
A Pitt sophomore on the premedicine track, she first found the borough through the Browne Leadership Fellows Program in the summer of 2017. The fellowship, offered through Pitt’s School of Social Work, is designed for students not majoring in social work but who have a passion for helping others. The Fellowship also mentors students through monthly seminars so they can better understand and serve the community.
Its mission resonated with Trimble, and it placed her in the Millvale Community Library last summer.
“The premed track zooms in and zooms in and zooms in, and community engagement lets you zoom out in a macro sense,” Trimble said. “It’s kind of hard going into medicine, because you want to be a healer and builder.”
Trimble worked with Brian Wolovich, a co-founder of the library, during her fellowship to do a community needs assessment and distribute water filters to residents who need them. Millvale, along with Pittsburgh, has lead service lines that have led to unsafe lead levels in some residents’ water.
Trimble spent the summer talking to people in the area, traveling everywhere from bars like the Double L — where she met Harley-Davidson bikers smoking at the long counter — to a convent.
She also helped with distributing water filters, Wolovich said, something beyond the requirement of her fellowship.
“Daly is a truly remarkable person,” Wolovich said. “Her intelligence is only matched by her kindness and sincerity in wanting to help and learn from others.”
Millvale stood out to Trimble as a place that cares about its residents — an attitude the borough exemplifies through its Ecodistrict Plan, which promotes projects to improve mobility, equity and air quality. The community aligns with Trimble’s values, particularly in its mission to create an equitable community.
“Gentrification is something horrible for community health and especially for the vulnerable, whether that’s the elderly or people with compromised health conditions,” Trimble said. “Millvale is very special in that it’s trying to prevent gentrification by building up [the] town and the people who have been here the entire time.”
She also works with people affected by gentrification through Operation Safety Net, an outreach program that offers an emergency weather network for homeless men. Trimble volunteers there every one to three weeks, handing out food and talking to people, and she connected it to her role as service officer for the Ryan Catholic Newman Center — the Catholic student organization for Pitt and CMU — where she organizes service for the elderly and homeless.
Working with the Newman Center is like “a third major” for Trimble, although many of her friends are also involved. Trimble converted to Catholicism in the spring of 2017, saying the church’s message of service above self and dedication to loving and caring for others resonated with her. But she also recognizes the unwelcoming and hurtful experiences others have had with the church.
“You always have to weigh your words carefully, because you don’t want to hurt anybody,” Trimble said. “I’m trying to bridge chasm between what the church has caused for others and what I can do to help. It’s stuff to keep you up at night.”
Some people are surprised by her faith, and she realizes that Catholicism has a reputation for being conservative and hurtful, especially toward LGBTQ+ people. When talking about her past work with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance in her high school, she slowed down, reflecting on the seemingly incongruous.
“When you join an institution, you take on the pain the institution has inflicted on others,” Trimble said.
Yet she couples that awareness with the knowledge of the church’s core value of caring for others, and she found “the idea that God is love itself felt like the answer I’d been waiting my entire life for.”
She also met her boyfriend, Chris Garcia, through the Newman Center. A trained accountant, he works as a campus missionary at CMU, and the two help each other at events they organize.
“I think she teaches me a lot with her optimism for this kind of work,” Garcia said. “Seeing her natural joy and exuberance — she’s helped me see how everything I do can be a way of elevating the people around me.”
Trimble sees their relationship as a way to “serve our faith and others around us,” and her passion for helping others permeates every aspect of her life.
“I’m passionate about preserving people whose dignity would otherwise be forgotten,” Trimble said. “It’s a really dangerous idea to see people’s dignity ignored because they can’t produce enough. I think in this day and age we forget about the dignity of the human person — that’s my motor.”
Trimble’s faith also acts as a lens through which she sees the world, and she also wears the lens of intersectional feminism. As editor in chief of The Fourth Wave, an intersectional feminist magazine at Pitt, she often writes about maternal issues, faith and feminism.
“I emailed them [my first year at Pitt] and they said, ‘come to our meeting,’ and I went and I never really left,” Trimble said. “There’s no one way to do feminism, and I think that comes out in our publication.”
Through all of her work runs a vein of passion that is visible as she motions with her hands, bringing them up and down, fingers splayed, in the rhythm of her thoughts. The Honors College noticed it when she was applying to Pitt and offered her a Chancellor’s Scholarship for her community engagement.
“She hit the ground running, and she hasn’t stopped yet,” Holly Hickling, who interviewed her for the scholarship and now works with her through the ACT Fellowship, said. “I can’t wait to see what we’ll be saying about her in a year. So many things she’s doing are just getting started.”