“Most students don’t necessarily realize that if they follow their passion they’ll end up a lot happier than if they get caught up in the everyday routine that so many people fall victim to,” said Hayes, 21, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in accounting at the ceremony. “It’s all about finding your passion in life, doing what you love, and enjoying your Monday through Friday instead of just getting through the week to get to the weekend. You should be able to enjoy the week as much as the weekend.”
Hayes was selected to be the URI student speaker after a lengthy process that included writing and presenting a draft speech at a meeting of the URI Student Senate.
“I was really excited when I spoke at the Senate meeting,” he said, “because it had been a goal of mine to give the commencement speech. It was a great feeling of accomplishment when they picked me because I achieved that goal, and now I have 15,000 people who will hear my message.”
Hayes, who completed his degree requirements in December, became interested in becoming an entrepreneur at a young age. He was already trading stocks at age 15 and figured that a degree in accounting would help him get a good start in the business world.
As a student in the URI College of Business, he became involved with TeeSpring, a start-up technology company that allows users to raise funds through crowd-funded apparel sales. Hayes used the online platform to compliment an epilepsy awareness campaign on campus to support The Matty Fund. He subsequently interned at RBS Citizens and at the accounting firm Sullivan and Co., and he has returned to TeeSpring in a full-time capacity developing strategic plans to help the company grow.
“I don’t know where my career may take me, but right now I have no plans to leave TeeSpring,” Hayes said. “I like being a part of creating something great, and I’m doing what I’m passionate about – helping a really awesome start up grow.”
As for his speech to the URI graduates, he just hopes that everyone listens to his message amid the celebrations.
“It’s an important message. If I can help just one person identify their passion and do something they love, then I think my speech will have succeeded,” he concluded.
Photo of Matthew Hayes by Michael Salerno Photography.