Connections Through the Years

Photos by Courtesy of Mon Ami

Madeline Dangerfield-Cha and Joy Zhang know that most people expect the companies that come out of Stanford’s Business School to be reliant on complex computer code or a groundbreaking app that you don’t understand. But this duo used their final semester of the program to create a business that centers on a decidedly un-hip group—senior citizens. To be more accurate, their company Mon Ami is targeted at people who have parents or other loved ones who are in their golden years. Dangerfield-Cha and Zhang have developed a company that helps those relatives can find a local college student to act as that person’s “activity companion.”  

Mon Ami isn’t about providing healthcare or medical services, but instead conquering projects like completing puzzles or helping write down someone’s recollections of their lives. The family members who join the program want their loved one to have the additional connection and stimulation that comes from building a relationship with a young, friendly student.  

For the students in the program, like Theresa Santiago, Mon Ami fits seamless into their schedule. Since her partner, Astrid, lives in Palo Alto, she’s able to bike to their weekly appointment and shift their meetings when she has finals or other school responsibilities. And instead of spending most of her time at Stanford without venturing far off campus, Santiago is building connections to members of the local community she likely would have never met without Mon Ami. And not for nothing, but Mon Ami compensates their companions at a competitive rate, so they can attract top-notch students for the program.  

The idea might sound simple, but that’s what makes Zhang and Dangerfield-Cha think they can expand their company all over the country, since every community has college students in need of a part-time job and older residents eager to build new friendships. Since the program right now is limited to Stanford students and Peninsula residents, the situations that companions encounter are unique to our area. In one case, a student is helping a retired professor used the Stanford alumni website to get in touch with former students, while another keeps a former healthcare pioneer with memory issues up-to-date on current advancements by reading the newspaper together. In fact, Mon Ami is in some ways a microcosm of the best of Peninsula culture. Young, talented people like Dangerfield-Cha and Zhang are here to make something new, but they also see what an amazing resource we have in our longtime local residents; even if those people might be not be interested in setting up an Instagram account.  

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