Supporting Student Vets
Air Force student veteran Kiersten Downs spent three tours overseas and a total of seven years serving the country. But her experience transitioning into higher education is what motivated her to bike 3,800 miles to support student veterans.
When Kiersten entered Binghamton University, she was determined to earn her degree. But by her junior year, she was being deployed to Iraq. She found it very difficult to navigate the process of working with her Veterans Administration to deal with her education benefits. “I now realize that the hardships I experienced and the anxieties I felt as a student are common amongst veterans who make the decision to go back to college,” Kiersten says.
Regardless, Kiersten pushed forward and graduated with her BA in three years. Now she’s on her way to a doctorate at University of South Florida. To help support her fellow veteran students and give them opportunities that she might not have had when she was in school, she’s biking from San Francisco, California to Washington, D.C. And she’s raising money as well.
Along the ride, she’ll be raising awareness about student veterans and their stories. She’s already shared her story with media outlets, including mtvU. The college-focused channel included her on their show Random Acts of mtvU, and they even gifted her with several items that would help her along her journey.
Meanwhile, her fundraising efforts have been very successful. Before Kiersten kicked off from San Francisco, she set a fundraising goal of $10,000. Today she’s raised more than $50,000 for Student Veterans of America. According to Kiersten’s website, “Student veterans deserve the highest level of commitment from their universities. These students are an untapped resource and we need to ensure that they make it to graduation. This is exactly what Student Veterans of America is trying to do and why I have chosen to support them with the cross country bike ride.”
Kiersten left San Francisco on June 2, 2013 and arrived in Washington, D.C. in early August to a huge reception. Her efforts will help veterans in their transition into higher education institutions across the nation. You can find out more about Kiersten’s efforts by visiting her website, Biking America.