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Young Alumni Award recipient Trimell Hawkins says GRCC is ‘more than a school; it’s a pathway to the future’

Feb. 14, 2022 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – For Trimell Hawkins, Grand Rapids Community College’s first Young Alumni Award recipient, GRCC "is more than a school: it's a pathway to the future." 

The new award recognizes alumni ages 40 and younger for their community or civic contributions, service in support of GRCC, and exceptional accomplishments in their profession.

Since graduating from GRCC’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education in 2015, Hawkins has put his personal stamp on menus throughout West Michigan. He credits the foundation the culinary program gave him for his success and says the “quick fire” challenges were one of his favorite things to do.

“My experience at GRCC was one of the most important and vital things to my success in my career,” said Hawkins, who enrolled after leaving the Marines. “It truly prepared me for this industry and gave me tools to be successful. The program gives you insight on what to expect, how to handle it, how to grow, and how to face adversity and overcome.”

Hawkins counts culinary professor Kevin Dunn as one of his mentors and friends.

“Trimell was working, raising his family, while being an excellent student,” Dunn said. “He can best be described as a sponge – he wants to learn from every chef as much as they have to offer.”

Now executive chef at the Portico Restaurant in the Canopy by Hilton Hotel in Grand Rapids, Hawkins has learned and challenged himself at every stop in his career.

“I’ve been fortunate to work for some great restaurants that have helped hone and develop my talent,” he said. “Black Heron was my first executive chef position, then Forty Acres, where I was truly able to spread my wings and flourish, and a few restaurants from there to my current position, where I’ve learned a great deal and grew.”

For Hawkins, cooking isn’t just about making a living; it’s how he shows he cares.

“When I had hip replacement surgery, I stopped by to see him on my way home,” Dunn said. “Trimell had a caravan of to-go food for my family. He fed my family for the entire weekend!”

Jenna Vande Kamp, development manager for alumni relations and annual giving, said Hawkins is a great selection to launch GRCC’s new award.

“We are so excited to recognize and highlight the early career accomplishments of our young alumni,” she said. “Trimell’s achievements – and his pride in his GRCC education – are representative of so many of our graduates and the impact that they’ve already had on their community.”

Photo by Andrew Schmidt.