People of Willmar – Manon Claux

Growing up in France, Manon “Mo” Claux loved American Pop Music. Frustrated when she was not able to understand the lyrics to these songs Mo would download the English words and learn them. Looking back, she is glad that she did not always realize what she was singing at such a young age. That little girl listening to pop songs was just beginning a path filled with passion to learn and understand the English language, and it would play a powerful role in the course of her life.

She studied the English language in school starting at the age of six. These studies would continue into college and guide her to secondary studies abroad. After graduating with a Sales and Marketing Degree from a French University, Mo entered an Exchange Program that would take her to Ireland. While in Ireland, Mo would find that after years of ‘textbook’ studies, speaking the English language was entirely different. Her roommates came from diverse areas of the world including; Sweden, America and Britain. As Mo looks back, she cherishes this time as the best year of her life. The exchange program brought students from all over the world together and while they had a lot of fun, even as they struggled to communicate with one another. One of the students in the program was a young man named Trevor from the United States.

Following graduation in Ireland, Mo knew that she wanted to continue her studies and position herself for a role where she could continue to speak the English language. An opportunity to attend a Business School in France presented itself; however, this opportunity was very expensive. Mo connected with a company that focused on helping students find scholarship dollars in the United States and chose Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri to further her education. Mo describes herself as quick witted and enjoys a good joke or sarcastic comeback, however, without a comfortable command of the English language and the slang being used she felt like she couldn’t be herself socially. This posed a struggle as Mo assimilated to her new life in the US. Describing her feelings initially as “a sort of an identity crisis,” she would go on to develop good friendships in her new surroundings. The young man she had met in Ireland, named Trevor, was attending college in Wisconsin at the time. Despite neither of them owning a car, they found ways to travel to see each other.

After graduating from Lindenwood University, she moved to Austin, MN to live with Trevor’s family. While in Austin, Mo found a job; however, her student Visa was expiring and she needed to find a job in her field of study with a company that supported Visas. Following an extensive search, applying with some of the largest companies in the metro area, she found that companies were not working with foreign Visa’s. She considered returning to school; however, her French student loans needed to be repaid. A listing for a French / Spanish Customer Service Representative in Willmar, MN caught her eye. Mo applied for the position and was informed that the Visa was no problem. She would begin her journey with Nova-Tech Engineering in February of 2012. She credits Nova-Tech for creating a great work/life balance. Her position includes travel to France many times per year, which allows her to stay connected with family and friends. Here in Willmar, Mo is active and involved, including: 2017 Leadership Perspectives Program, the Willmar Playground Project and serving as the current Co-Chair for the neXt Organization, an affiliation to the Willmar Chamber.

Mo purchased a home in Willmar with Trevor a few years ago. However, due to his employment in Iowa their relationship continued to be long distance. While vacationing in February, Trevor proposed to Mo and shared the news that he had found employment and would be moving to Willmar. Now engaged, Trevor surprised Mo with two puppies this summer. They named the dogs Oscar and Merlot. The pair is busy planning two weddings: one ceremony in France and another here at home in the United States. Then, to focus on making Willmar “home” with Trevor, Oscar and Merlot.

– Marn Steinwand
– Photography by Brianna Norby