Monica Victor is a copywriter at Consolidated Credit, a nonprofit company that helps customers overcome and stay out of credit card debt, but she spends her free time writing, designing and promoting her own publication — each regular edition consisting of over 100 pages.
Since 2017, Victor has released three issues of “Manmay LaKay,” a digital magazine dedicated to celebrating and raising visibility of the culture and people of St. Lucia, her home island in the eastern Caribbean. The title is in Kwéyòl, St. Lucia’s creole dialect, and translates to “children from home,” as the magazine also keeps St. Lucians around the world updated on what’s happening in their home country and provides them a “virtual platform” on which to meet.
The stories of triumphant St. Lucian individuals — dubbed “Monica’s Victors” — make up the meat of the magazine.
“A lot of St. Lucians, they leave the island in search of a better life, and they make so many contributions to countries and societies all over the world,” said Victor, 41 of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “They beat the odds. A lot of them go through a lot of transgressions to make their dreams come true.
“We need role models. People need to hear of the contributions that St. Lucians are making all over the world. They need to hear of the adversity and the hurdles that they have to go over to accomplish their dreams.”
As for hurdles, Victor had many to clear during the magazine’s transition from idea to reality. She graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2012 with a double major in psychology and journalism. With a lack of prior job experience, she struggled to find work.
About a year later, she thought of a solution: “If lack of experience is one of the reasons you haven’t landed a job in your preferred field of journalism and no one is willing to give you the experience, why don’t you cultivate your own, Monica?” she wrote in the article “Genesis of Manmay LaKay Magazine.”
From there, things didn’t go smoothly. She couldn’t find a graphic designer, so she decided to design it herself despite having no experience. Many who volunteered to help her fell through the floorboards. She lost all of the writing she’d done so far when her USB drive malfunctioned. Her sister died of Lupus in 2015, which would later lead to a special issue of Manmay LaKay about the disease.
But Victor kept going.
“Every time that I thought I was going to move forward something happened,” she said. “… [The USB] put that doubt in my head like, OK, maybe this is not meant to be, maybe God is telling me, ‘Monica, this is not the path for you, you should probably concentrate on something else.’ But on the other hand, I’m like, ‘You know what? Monica, you do not give up no matter what. This dream has been planted in your heart and your heart belongs to St. Lucia and the St. Lucian people, and I think you should press on.’ So I mustered the courage.”
Loverly Sheridan, a teacher and author, has known Monica for seven years since meeting her at the St. Lucia Association of South Florida. She is one of the successful St. Lucians to be featured in the magazine, and found it “an honor” to be included.
“I’m inspired by the magazine and the work that [Victor’s] doing. … She’s such a great journalist, she asks all the right questions and she gets into the story and she does her research,” Sheridan said. “She really cares about people, especially the St. Lucian people and the St. Lucian community.”
Michael Koretzky, SPJ’s Region 3 director and a financial journalist, first met Victor in 2010 at FAU’s student newspaper where she wrote as an undergrad and he worked as an advisor. He later worked with her at Consolidated Credit, noting that she remembers the names and lives of the many people who will greet her when she walks down the hall at work. She’s a quiet person by nature, but knows more people at the company than he does, he said.
“I admire the fact that she can do her job and do it well — it’s a busy job,” he said. “Like a lot of other jobs, what she does requires a lot of attention, she doesn’t have a lot of downtime at work, and yet she can still on her own time do a magazine that’s more than 100 pages long about her community. I find that amazing.”
To those who face obstacles on the way to their goal, Victor would say this:
“A delay is not a denial. Keep working at your dream. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop. Just keep going, keep adding, whether you do a little bit every day. It will inch you closer to achieving your dream. Never, ever, ever give up.”
Hope Dean is a journalism student at Florida Atlantic University and the managing editor of the University Press.