Roselaure Jones, who goes by Rose, was only seven years old when she left Haiti for America in 1996. Then, like now, the country was struggling with civil and political unrest. A military coup in 1991 was followed by a United Nations-backed military intervention in 1994. Rose recalls, as a child, seeing dead bodies in the street on her way to school. Like many individuals who leave their country of origin, her family soon sought stability and opportunities for a better life in America.
But her family’s road to the US was far from straightforward. In the early 1990s, her father paid a smuggler to help him first attempt to get to Florida via boat. The boat malfunctioned and he and the crew were forced to return to Haiti. Such was the widespread level of unrest and insecurity in Haiti at the time, her father didn’t give up. He tried a second time, succeeding in 1995. Rose’s father went on to establish himself in Florida where he successfully filed for asylum and managed to bring his entire family (Rose, her mother and four other siblings) to the United States a year later.
The family members later obtained Green cards that allowed them to reside legally in the U.S., living in Florida for a time before moving to Atlanta, Georgia. Rose started her elementary school education with ESL – English as a Second Language, and went on to excel as a student in high school. As an athlete, she earned a full volleyball scholarship attending a prestigious university in Alabama. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in international business, and later earned an MBA. “It felt great earning my MBA and Bachelor’s degree. It was evidence that all of the sacrifices I and my parents made were not in vain.” While pursuing her MBA, she gave back to her volleyball team by volunteering as an assistant coach.
Her professional career began with Toyota Motors on a career path that took her from Alabama to California for a year, then to Indiana, and then to Kentucky. Prior to moving to Ohio Rose lived in Texas for four years.
Today Rose Jones lives in North Dayton and is the mother of four young children. She works as a sourcing professional for a Fortune 500 company (that she prefers not to name), and runs two training startups together with her husband. Having traveled the breadth of the country all whilst seeing the ongoing struggles facing residents of her homeland, Rose is deeply appreciative of how she’s got to this point.
“I cannot stress enough that the United States offers so many opportunities. In Haiti, people wake up every day wondering what to do and how to improve their lives.” said Rose.
When Rose moved to Dayton during the aftermath of the devastating tornado outbreak in May 2019, she recalls: “I remember seeing the damages with my own eyes. That made me feel sad, and a call into action at the same time. So, my husband and I decided to buy and renovate properties to fulfill the housing needs.” Indeed, she and her husband saw an opportunity to acquire rental homes.
They work with housing assistance agencies such as YWCA that offer individuals a fresh start after being homeless. Their involvement with the Legacy Learning Institute is apt, she says, because of the comparatively low levels of home ownership being experienced by minorities in the community. Now, Rose is setting out to provide on-demand and in-person workshops that can educate minority groups in financial literacy.
“There’s a huge deficit regarding home ownership. We felt there was not enough education on financial literacy in the Dayton area. Helping people going through the process of purchasing a home is rewarding,” she says. “It’s not only understanding the process of purchasing homes, it’s everything else like how much to save, and what amount to allocate in a 401K. We want individuals to start thinking about building their generational wealth.”
Although Rose’s father entered the U.S. under illegal circumstances, her story, and that of many others like her, is one to illustrate how immigrants are an essential cog to not just their own and surrounding communities, but to the country as a whole. Undocumented workers, that is, people who have entered the country through unofficial channels, are believed to contribute around $8 billion to the U.S. economy every year. What’s more, the process of transitioning from illegal to legal residency status is a gray area. The process is long and expensive.
So, with her family and career now firmly established in Dayton, does Rose still keep up with everything going on in Haiti? “I always verify with my parents when it has anything to do with Haiti,” she says.
Jehanne Dufresne is founder/CEO of Ennah Servicing LLC DBA WEW! (Women Encouraging Women), and part of The Journalism Lab.