Kiersten Down gets ready for her 3800-mile bike ride for Student Veterans of America

Downs believes that the transition can be very difficult for many returning veterans. She joined the Air Force after high school and served three tours overseas. She returned to the states after her seven year service to return to school. She discovered the complications, isolation, and general frustrations of being a student veteran.


Downs and other student veterans needed to juggle the normal rigors of the university level academia, but also the bureaucratic paperwork for military funded tuition. Downs managed to gain her bachelor’s in political science in three years, but she did not get engaged in school organizations.


In her graduate studies, she finally discovered organizations like Student Veterans of America (SVA). She joined USF’s SVA, just last year and has been working to improve the organization’s efforts.


She believes that “it is the veterans themselves who help make a school veteran friendly.” And it is her goal to engage student veterans through a focus on physical fitness and wellness in an effort to support and encourage social change.


Her passion to help improve the efforts of the SVA guided her to current endeavor. Downs plans to ride her bicycle across the country to raise awareness and $50,000 for the Student Veterans of America.


Her goal is to leave from San Francisco on June 1st and travel the 3,800 miles across the country to Washington D.C. by August 5th. Her mother and other supporters will accompany her with a trail to carry supplies and other necessities.


Downs originally planned to travel with 30lbs of gear on her back and camp each night, but the support has grown so much that mtvU has decided to record her journey for a three part series airing in the fall.


In addition to awareness, she hopes to inspire student veterans to join their local SVA organizations or even start new ones to help support and invest in their futures. Downs believes that student veterans are the future leaders with the proper support and long term investment in education.


Kiersten Downs and SVA encourage others organizations to join in the ride. Team Red, White, and Blue already plans to participate and support Downs’ efforts. Supporters can join in the ride or donate to the cause at BikingUSA.


Supports have the opportunity to join in on the ride in several steps of the route including Sacramento and Colorado, as well as possible met up rides in Nashville and Clemson. On the final bit of the ride, supporters from Fredericksburg, Virginia will met up and ride with Downs to the SVA headquarters in D.C.

  • Kiersten Downs and her new Cannondale bicycle.

“People often think it is crazy to bike ride across the country, but I don’t live life in the culture of fear. Sometimes you just have to get off the couch and live life.”

Kiersten Downs has wanted to cycle across the United States for many years and decided to combine her three passions: bike riding, advocating, and advocating for student veterans.

As the president of the local University of South Florida’s Student Veterans of America organization, Downs has aimed to help fellow veterans in their transition between the structured military life and the unstructured civilian life.

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