In an effort to understand the impact of One Small Step (OSS) in the OSS Model Community of Columbus, Georgia, we sat down with Ryan Chitwood—a Columbus native who recently participated in the program. Here’s what he had to share about his experience. 

Can you share a personal story or experience from your OSS conversation that stood out to you?

My conversation was unexpectedly held at the Infantry Museum with the director of education, instead of my original partner. Despite our age difference, we found a lot in common, especially how life events shape our political views. It was enlightening to see how understanding someone’s life story can make their political attitudes much more relatable.

How do you believe OSS contributes to bridging political divides and promoting understanding among people with different views?

 In today’s world, where we’re often segmented into our own social bubbles, OSS offers a rare opportunity to engage with someone different. It’s special because you know the other person has also chosen to be there. This mutual choice lays the groundwork for open, less intimidating conversations, fostering a sense of understanding and common ground.

Are you a Columbus native? How does this influence your perspective on OSS’s impact in Columbus?

I was born and raised here. Columbus still has a small-town feel despite its size, which means there’s a strong sense of community, but also divisions along racial and class lines. OSS is crucial here as it encourages people to step out of their bubbles and engage with the diverse perspectives within our own community.

How does OSS benefit Columbus specifically?

Columbus’s unique position as a diverse yet tight-knit community makes it an ideal place for OSS. The program leverages our city’s diversity and sense of community to encourage conversations across political and social divides. It’s about bringing people together to understand each other on a human level, beyond just political identities.

Could you share an anecdote from your OSS conversation that deeply impacted you?

During our 50-minute chat, my partner—a military family member—shared insights that broadened my understanding of military life and its impact on one’s worldview. We found common ground in our military service, archery, and even our Biblical interpretations. It was a profoundly uplifting experience that challenged my assumptions and left me with a sense of camaraderie and understanding.

What advice or message would you offer to individuals in Columbus who are uncertain about whether to participate in the program?

I’d say you’re likely to make a friend. Even though I haven’t spoken with my partner since our conversation, I know we’ll catch up the next time I visit the Infantry Museum. It’s a chance to meet someone you might not have otherwise and to gain new perspectives. Don’t let fear hold you back; the experience can exceed your expectations and contribute to our community’s strength.

To participate in a conversation in Columbus, visit