Achieving, though 'life was tough'
Jean Monestime, 40, pursued a good education and rose from mopping floors to owning a business and serving as a North Miami councilman.
Business owner Jean Monestime has had his share of low points since arriving here in 1981 from Haiti via Bimini. But the one that stands out even now is the day his first home was repossessed, his car was towed and he did not have enough money to buy diapers for his 6-month-old child.
''I had an insurance job that was based on commission. I was
in school and I could not give up one for the other because I had a family
to support,'' said Monestime, a
married father of two. ``I didn't want to quit school because life was tough.''
It's that kind of drive that has transformed Monestime from a
17-year-old Haitian refugee who mopped floors at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
for $3.55 an hour to a North
Miami councilman and owner of his own real estate firm. He is president and chief executive officer of MJM Capital Realty & Investment Group in North Miami.
''The ultimate goal was to see a different picture of my life,'' said Monestime, who worked at various odd jobs and drove a taxicab full time for seven years while attending what is now called Miami Dade College. ``The way it was, was not acceptable to me.''
Believing that education was the key to a better life, Monestime
said he was determined to finish at MiamiDade, where he changed career
goals countless times before
eventually enrolling at Florida International University.
In 1995, he earned an undergraduate degree in business and finance
from FIU. Five years later, he received a master's degree in business administration
He was elected to the North Miami council in October 2002 to
fill a vacant seat and was reelected last April without opposition. Monestime
is one of several elected
Last year, Monestime's firm did $16 million in sales and made $600,000 in profit -- not bad for a fellow who went into the real estate business in 1995 with just $58 in the bank.
The sixth of 10 children, Monestime says he left Haiti ''frankly out of desperation, a lack of what the future might have brought me.'' His plan was to come to Miami, work and go to school, and return to help his family.
Twenty-two years later, Haiti has been put on hold. But the drive to help fellow Haitians remains.
''The Haitian experience is a very positive experience,'' said Monestime, 40.
``It's a very educational experience. It's maintained the history of pride and courage the Haitian people are known for.''