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17576: (Hermantin) Miami Herald-Drive to Succeed (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Sun, Dec. 28, 2003

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.

UP FROM POVERTY: Jean Monestime mopped floors in a doughnut shop after
coming from Haiti. Now he owns a real estate firm and is a councilman in

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
from Nova Southeastern University.

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 Haitian-American officials.

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,

``It's a very educational experience. It's maintained the history of pride
and courage the Haitian people are known for.''

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