Leading the charge

Alan Hayes, UCC’s new Students' Union President and Director of The Thomas Hayes Trust, discusses his excitement for the year ahead and the importance of supporting those in need. In conversation with Jane Haynes

3 min read
12 Oct 2018
Photo: Mike Hannon

I really think I wouldn’t be where I am if I wasn’t on Quercus. It’s just such a special programme – it’s not like any other, and UCC is the only university that offers an Active Citizenship Scholarship. The main strands have always been sport, academics and musical performance, but a lot of other universities forget about leaders – the people who are taking time out just as much as a sports scholar would be, to make a change. UCC are the only ones recognising this.

Music is something that I’ve always been so passionate about. It’s really what got everything started for me. The person who taught me everything was my dad. I was only five years old when he passed, but he taught me loads of songs and I’ve always kept that with me.

As I got older, I started to write songs. I had only learned the guitar about six months when I decided to write a song about my mum and how she’s dealt with suicide in the family, and how I look up to her. I wrote that song, and that’s where it snowballed for me. It was called Survivor – it was the one I performed on The Late Late Show.

My mum is my greatest inspiration. I always get emotional thinking of how she was left with four children. Her husband took his life, and she was left with four kids and very little money. She didn’t have a college degree, then she started doing part-time courses while trying to raise the four of us. Now, she’s running the charity every day at home, in Teach Tom, and she’s such a light. She always taught me that once you commit to something, you’re committed – you don’t just pull out. I take that philosophy with me in everything I do now.

I know I’ll be working with people – I don’t know in what form, but I’ll be working in whatever way I can to make a difference.

Even in 20 years’ time, I will hopefully still be Director of The Thomas Hayes Trust. It’s something that I’ll always be involved in and will always try to promote and press on – it’s obviously needed, if there are 70 people a week in Kilkenny availing of the service. It’s not hard to imagine maybe, someday, having another five or six houses around Ireland. I think there’s a need for it.

Another thing I would love to focus on with Teach Tom is growing our child play therapy service. Primary schools offer it, but there’s a waiting list and it’s hard to get onto it. So, those people who don’t get onto it come to Teach Tom for free.

Instead of looking at intervention, I think it’s easier to prevent problems – teach people about their emotions and how to develop as a person while experiencing these tough times. It’s important that they know what’s going on when things are happening, rather than being too late and them feeling like they don’t want to be alive anymore.

I always feel like what’s meant to be, will be. I think that’s how my life is going to be for the next few years – opportunities will arise for me, and I always feel in my gut whether I should take them or not.

I’m certain that I want to work with people, and I want to work maybe in the psychological field. I was looking at doing cognitive behavioural therapy or even social care. I’d love to be a counsellor, as well.

I know I’ll be working with people – I don’t know in what form, but I’ll be working in whatever way I can to make a difference.

To find out more about the Quercus Scholarships, visit www.ucc.ie/en/quercus.

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