Two years ago, Warren Koontz and Jerome Legions met when they were matched for a One Small Step conversation in Richmond, Virginia—one of three Anchor Communities where the initiative is currently focusing its work. Since then, they have developed a close friendship and of Warren, Jerome says simply, “I couldn’t imagine my life without [him].” We recently sat down with the pair to check in and hear how a One Small Step conversation changed their lives.

How did each of you initially decide to take part in One Small Step conversation?

Warren: I think it’s important to talk to people you don’t know, so I signed up. Once I got Jerome’s name, I’ll admit that I looked him up and I was glad to see his interest in education because I’m very interested in education too.

Jerome: I was a big fan of StoryCorps and I had no reservations about participating in a conversation. But given our political differences, I wasn’t expecting that Warren and I would find so many commonalities.

Like education?

Jerome: Yes, and race relations—we both had the same ideas about how to fix things and we bonded over that. It helped us start focusing on our similarities, rather than our differences. 

For example, during our conversation, we realized that—although we grew up very differently—we both had strong mentors in our parents who taught us to give back. They were bridge builders and I think both of us feel like we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. 

Warren: Jerome is a great example of someone giving back. He is currently leading the effort to renovate the Moore Street School in Richmond, which was built in 1887 by city Engineer Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Cutshaw for free African-American children, following the Reconstruction era. 

Jerome: I’m president of the Moore Street School Foundation and Warren was the first contributor to the project. He also personally wrote to politicians on both sides of the aisle to get state funding for the effort. Our goal is to refurbish and repurpose the building into a Performing Arts Center and multi-purpose space for the community.

The Moore Street School in Richmond. Photo courtesy of Jerome Legions.

Why do you think people should participate in One Small Step?

Warren: Countries and groups may not always get along, but people do. We need to be open to hearing the other side.

Jerome: I don’t know if it’s a universal or spiritual connection, but I believe that Warren and I were meant to meet. We can talk about anything—gun violence, healthcare, life—and it only adds layers to our relationship. Often, I’ll be mulling over an issue and then I’ll say to myself, ‘What would Warren think?’ and I’ll give him a call.