Friday, March 5, 2010

Alumnus Jonathon Stalls Walks Across America for KIVA

Remember Forest Gump, long hair strewn about as he ran and ran across America. When asked why, he responded: “When I had to go, you know, I went.” Recent Metropolitan State College of Denver Alumnus Jonathon Stalls (Independent study ’09) is going on foot across America this year, too—walking from the East to the West coast, in fact. But he’s not doing it just ‘cuz. Stalls is on a mission. He’s raising funds for the nonprofit, microfinance organization, KIVA. Plus, it’s something he just had to do.

“I sat with myself on my birthday prior to graduating, and I said to myself: ‘this is something I would love to do. I don’t know when, but I’m going to do this.’” Now, just six months later he’s on his way. He left Monday, March 1, and plans to travel well over 5,000 miles. He’s using the southern portion of the American Discovery Trail (ADT) as “a tool in carving a route for this trip.” He plans to reach the heart of the Rocky Mountains by July and so will have to take some shortcuts. His final destination is California.

The seed for this trip, he said, was planted on a visit to Europe. “I interacted with all kinds of on-foot travelers in hostels. The freedom and flexibility of their mobility and travel was this new thing for me. I recognized I was very jealous of a life like that.” Then he came back to the States and “stumbled” across Peter Jenkins’ book, “A Walk Across America,” and he met a guy in a coffee shop late one night who further influenced him.

“He sat next to me and started talking about how he was walking across the country and was on the last leg,” recalled Stalls. “The stories that came out of his mouth paralyzed me.” Soon after that night, Stalls took an extended trip to Honduras, where he “bounced around on chicken busses.” That cemented things for him, and he began to check out weather patterns and routes across the United States.

However, the trip planning couldn’t be complete until he figured out one more thing. He wanted to give back somehow. While taking a social entrepreneurship class at Metro State, he learned about the organization KIVA, which offered microfinance as a solution to poverty.

“I went online, researched KIVA and just fell in love with how they organized people to get involved in microfinance,” Stalls explained. He also liked how they “met our growing online social capacity.” KIVA utilizes social media platforms—Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter—to cultivate an online community that syncs with their interests. Stalls is taking a Blackberry with him so that he can do regular updates on the walks, the people he meets, and anything else he’s thinking about. Though he’s only been walking less than a week, his social media efforts are already paying off. He has already raised three-quarters of the $12,000 that he needs to make the trip happen, and he has more than 500 Facebook friends. He hopes this translates to real-world interactions with people.

He is looking for people to host him along the way, to walk with him on highways or through the mountains, and for whom he can do presentations and facilitate inspirational talks about microfinance.

“Join me on this trip,” he says. “Put on a pack and take in your environment. Slow down a bit. I’m really looking forward to meeting and connecting with people.”

For more information, please visit Stalls’ website. As well, the Metro State Office of Alumni Relations will regularly keep track of Jonathon in our “Where’s Jonathon” updates. And we are spending a day walking with him in the Colorado mountains as he passes through. We encourage other alumni and students to join us on this journey. Please contact Brian Ferguson at fergusob @ if you are a student or alumnus who wants to walk with KIVA.

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