USF Magazine Fall 2013

Volume 55 | Number 3


Cycling for Vets

| USF News

Five cyclists joined Downs throughout the final 70 miles of her cross-country bike ride, including the current USF SVA president, Ray Mollison. (left)
Photo by Katy Hennig | USF News

Every mile Kiersten Downs biked traversing the country this summer was dedicated to fellow student veterans.

On August 5, the USF doctoral student completed her ride. Downs had cycled almost 3,800 miles across the United States, from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness and funding for veterans transitioning into university life.

“I am most proud of all the support I received along the way, with riders from the SVA joining up for encouragement,” says Downs, referring to the national nonprofit Student Veterans of America.

As she cruised down H Street NW and into University Yard in the heart of Washington, D.C., supporters cheered and embraced her.

Followers tracked her remarkable journey across America on her website,, where she and filmmaker Annie Pace ventured and explored along the way, accompanied by Downs’ parents, Cornelia and Chris Downs.

Kiersten Downs

Photo by Katy Hennig | USF News

Downs, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is working toward her PhD in Applied Anthropology at USF and has integrated her love for cycling with her advocacy for veterans and higher education.

Although Downs completed the entire ride on her own, in many Bike America cities fellow veterans and supporters came out to ride alongside and take part in the journey. During the last 70 miles from Fredericksburg, Va., cyclists joined forces with Bike America and carried the momentum all the way to D.C.

After more than two months on the road and accomplishing her incredible goals, Downs was looking forward to relaxing with family and friends.

Downs’ main focus with her Bike America Student Veterans Ride for Education was to raise awareness and support for student veterans. By successfully raising more than $50,000, Downs surpassed her goal, with 15 percent of the proceeds donated to the SVA chapter at USF and the rest to chapters of SVA throughout the country, dedicated to essential projects and leadership initiatives.

The Student Veterans of America organization held a reception at the National Veterans Center on the George Washington University campus to honor Downs’ achievement and celebrate her contribution to student veterans.

From the dip of her rear tire in the Pacific Ocean to the splash of her front wheel in the Reflecting Pool in D.C., Downs has completed her journey. For now.

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