Virtual Training Camp Diaries: Madi Duffy

Hi! I’m Madi, and I am a 2020 Fellow from Newtown, CT. This past May, I graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, TN where I studied social entrepreneurship and music business.

Back in November, I attended Selection Day in Detroit as part of the VFA application process. Even then, the positive energy that the VFA community embodies was contagious, and I could not wait to one day – pending an offer into the program – fully immerse myself in the VFA experience during Training Camp. When it was officially announced that Training Camp would be virtual, I couldn’t help but feel robbed of a potentially life-changing experience. Of course, the VFA Team had no choice but to make the decision that they did, but it still stung.

Fast forward three months, and virtual Training Camp has come to a close. As I write this, I am still in awe of the profound impact hanging out with 200+ people on Zoom every day for the past four weeks has had on me. Never in my life have I felt so at home in a group of people in such a short amount of time, not to mention a group of people I’ve only ever met virtually.

In a world that often feels overwhelmingly cynical and helpless, the past month has proved to me that our future is in incredibly capable, intelligent, compassionate hands if it is in the hands of VFA Fellows. Each day of training camp opened and closed with “Credos”, or short stories told by Fellows about transformative moments in their lives that align with one of VFA’s Credo statements. Day after day, I was amazed and inspired by the bravery, diversity, and wisdom that my fellow Fellows embodied. Being granted a spot in this class of Fellows is an honor I do not take lightly.

Training Camp came to an end Thursday evening with the Closing Ceremony. Each of the 2020 Fellows and team members dressed to impress from the comfort of our couches, poured ourselves our favorite drinks, and came together on our last of many ridiculously overcrowded Zoom calls. We shared our Training Camp reflections, funniest stories, memorable quotes, and most importantly, our sincere appreciation for one another. I have never witnessed another community, not to mention a business organization, put so much intentional effort into making each of their members feel seen, heard, and valued. It’s inspiring to witness, and incredibly uplifting to be a part of.

As much as today marked the end of Training Camp, it also marked the beginning of my Fellowship. As I reflect on the past month, I find myself wishing I had remained more engaged throughout some of the moments when “Zoom fatigue” hit hardest. That ever-so-slight feeling of regret has reminded me how temporary this experience is. It’s a reminder to remain present, curious, and energized, even when the Zoom fatigue hits, because the next two years will fly by and I don’t want to miss out on any of the invaluable opportunities that this Fellowship provides.

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