USF Student Veteran Preps for Cross-Country Bike Ride
USF student Kiersten Downs is counting down the days to June 1st, when she'll hop on her bicycle in San Francisco and start riding. She won't stop until August 5th -- almost 4,000 miles later -- when she's expected to pedal into Washington, DC.
The anthropology PhD candidate is making the cross-country trip to raise money and awareness for Student Veterans of America, a national group that helps vets transition from the military to college campuses.
Downs served in the Air Force for seven years, including three overseas deployments and one tour of duty in Iraq. She's now the president of the USF chapter of Student Veterans of America.
"I think that the bike ride is going to be the easiest part. I think the hard part is raising awareness. I think the hard part is sending out the message, so I'm just looking forward to going," Downs said at an appearance on the USF Tampa campus Thursday.
"You know, this is a dream, this bike ride has been a way that I can combine three of my passions: bike riding, advocating for higher education, and advocating for student veterans."
Downs aims to raise $50,000 for the SVA through her ride. She'll travel (see virtual map here) from California through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, before finishing up at the SVA National Headquarters in Washington, DC.
Earlier in the week, MTV's college channel, mtvU, gave Downs a GPS and a $1,000 gas card for her family, who will be driving along with her on her trip in a mobile home. mtvU will also document Downs' effort on their new "Randoms Act" program.
"mtvU reaches over 750 campuses across the nation, and one goal for Student Veterans of America and myself and other student veteran leaders is to reach student veterans as they make that transition from the military to a college campus, and this is one way that we can do this," Downs said.
"In order to instigate change, you work with the media and you send out a positive message and that's what we're doing right now."