JM Williams has a vision for the future of education in the South Valley, and he’s hoping the community will put its support behind it and the aptly-named organization he’s founded–The Vision 4 The Valley.
“We want to bring a four-year university to Tulare County by 2030,” Williams said.
The effort is in its earliest stages, and the goal appears lofty, but already Williams has what seems to be a solid organizational plan. He and the other founding officers of the newly formed nonprofit intend to gather as much capital as they can, then put that money toward “anything we can do to write grants to right the wrongs in Tulare County.”
Ultimately, however, the aim of The Vision 4 The Valley (TV4TV) is to stop what Williams sees as an ongoing exodus of the South Valley’s best and brightest students.
“What I’d like to make sure is that Tulare County has anything someone who lives here needs. If they don’t have to leave, wouldn’t that be preferable,” he said. “We want to make it so we can have a choice.”
Williams came to a realization that the area had little to offer to keep its native sons and daughters in the area after living in Texas for five years then being obliged to return.
“I didn’t want to come back,” he said. “For me that was the biggest thing, having to realize the Valley wasn’t good for people because everyone left and didn’t come back.”
South Valley University
While TV4TV’s officers intend the organization to support all sort of good works as it “rights the wrongs”–including issues such as homelessness and animal rights–all of those efforts will ultimately be attempts to bring awareness to the group’s main goal of getting a four-year college built in Tulare County.
“It’s going to create more awareness about what the organization is doing,” Williams said.
Williams said the group would prefer the University of California build a new campus here, but they are also willing to court the California State University or a private school. And, they have a plan to incentivize those groups into action: They intend to buy enough land for a new campus and donate it to whomever they can convince to bring a university to Tulare County.
“The concrete plan is No. 1 buy the land,” Williams said. “We have located a parcel. It’s 350 acres toward Terra Bella near Lake Success.”
The parcel’s price tag is some $2 million.
After securing the land for the new campus, TV4TV intends to develop the land, making sure it has correct zoning, adequate roads and similar issues. Much of that second step will require the cooperation of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.
“Thankfully, they seem receptive,” Williams said. “I see no reason any Tulare County supervisor wouldn’t be on board with something like this.”
TV4TV doesn’t intend to approach the UC Regents with their idea until they’ve raised at least 25% of the cost of purchasing the land. When they do present their concept, it won’t be the first time a donation of land has led to the construction of a new UC campus.
“They did it with Merced and they did it with Irvine as well,” Williams said. “They did it twice, why wouldn’t they do it here?”
Off the Ground
While the goals are big, the organization behind them is still small, with 10 officers and a growing group of supporters. Making that group of supporters larger and getting their message out is TV4TV’s current focus.
“We’re really just working on outreach. I attend about five events a week,” Williams said. “We’re working on trying to get our name out there.”
Besides the support of some members of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, TV4TV also has the blessing of State Assemblyman Devon Mathis.
“Devon Mathis is a supporter, he’s one of our oldest,” Williams said. “He’s kind of steered us in the right direction.”
While the support of local leaders and officials is critical, so too is the support of citizens, Williams said.
“Right now, we’d really like the public to come to our meetings. We don’t want this to be a project where we start getting large grants, this takes off, and we start acting unilaterally,” Williams said. “We want the public to say, ‘You should do this one, not that one.’ At this stage, I’d rather have more minds than more money.”
To find out more about The Vision 4 The Valley, follow them at Facebook.com/TV4TVInc.