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Going to the mat got him to graduation

Grad with Grit: Terrell Hawkins

Comstock Park — Terrell Hawkins was struggling before he transferred to Comstock Park High School in the middle of his sophomore year. School wasn’t a priority, he recalled, especially when he had socializing and chances to earn money at a part-time job.

He had lived with his grandmother in the Holland area since he was very young, and was a student in an Ottawa County school. When the coronavirus pandemic and school closures hit in March 2020, his aunt, Lacey Brayton, a Comstock Park resident, took Terrell in and he became a part of a large, blended family that also now includes his two brothers.

Brayton, he said, helped him in “reaching the next level and getting out of my comfort zone.”  

From giving guidance on, say, spending money or choosing to go to a party, “She has words of wisdom,” Terrell said of his aunt. “I think she helped me see two sides of a scenario, good or ugly, bad or the real.” 

Terrell Hawkins, right, with his aunt, Lacey Brayton (courtesy)

Sports As Motivator

He flourished at Comstock Park High School, in part because it’s a smaller school than his previous one. A standout athlete, Terrell played three sports. Last year, he was in the top 16 in the 144 and 150-lb. weight class in the state in wrestling, and he played soccer and football this fall. He played running back, cornerback and nose guard on the football team and left back, left mid and center mid on the soccer team. 

He also improved his grade point average while holding a part-time job at Mr. Burger.  

Terrell said being part of sports teams helped him create bonds and fit in with people. He was able to quickly make friends at Comstock Park, especially at first when he was “not in the right mindset to meet new friends,” he said.

Playing sports also held him to high standards, he said. 

“You know that people are watching you. It (kept) me motivated and out of trouble, and (was) just all-around fun.”

Kendra Faustin, interim principal and former athletic director at Comstock Park, said she allowed him to play both soccer and football at the same time last fall because she said he does better when he is involved. Athletes must be passing five out of six classes and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. 

Terrell Hawkins made it to the Division 3 state level in wrestling his junior year (courtesy)

When it came to classwork, Terrell knew wrestling coach Tim Olson was paying attention. 

Olson had access to all of Terrell’s grades, and if he fell behind or missed assignments Olson required him to do a “a little workout,” including more pushups and additional running laps beyond what was usually required at practice. It reminded Terrell to stay focused on academics. 

“He’s quick, athletic and he has the drive and doesn’t mind the hard work,” Olson said.

Terrell plans to stay active in sports now that he is out of high school, and having been part of the culinary arts program at Kent Career Tech Center, plans to enroll in the fall at Grand Rapids Community College and eventually join the culinary program there.

Terrell Hawkins, left, with his aunt and uncle, Lacey Brayton and Trimell Hawkins (courtesy)

Read more from Comstock Park:
Learning division is easier with cupcakes
Energizing the next generation of workers

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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry covers Comstock Park. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years of experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be a part of the great team of journalists at School News Network and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools. She is a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School in St Joseph, Michigan and Central Michigan University. Read Karen's full bio


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