On a mission to lower the achievement gap that systematically keeps low-income and minority students off-track for entry to four-year colleges and prosperous careers, Bowdoin alum, JP Hernandez ’04, founded American Dream Clean. The company is both a commercial cleaning agency and a social enterprise company. It aims to provide its employees with the resources necessary to ensure that their children are able to graduate from a competitive college. 

Hernandez spent his time at Bowdoin as a Government and Legal Studies major and History minor, a two-sport athlete and a regular volunteer with children of all ages. He was a volunteer for the YMCA and worked with Breakthrough Collaborative, a summer program for highly motivated underserved middle and high school students that helps them on the path to college. It was during those experiences that Hernandez started noticing the challenges that low-income and minority students face academically. 

Hernandez noted that a college education can positively impact many aspects of a person’s life. 
“How happy you are with your life is very wrapped up in the whole thing. So to be able to be creating this path... it’s a beautiful thing,” Hernandez said in a video interview with the Orient. 
“It’s like winning a lottery ticket,” he added.  

Hernandez did not know he wanted to become involved in education immediately after leaving Bowdoin. Working as a paralegal and for a hedge fund called Bridgewater after graduation, he picked up many of the skills he would later use in founding his company. With the idea floating around in his head for 10 years, Hernandez hit a crossroads.

“Either you’re going to stay at Bridgewater forever or you’re going to do what you always intended to do,” he said.

In 2014, Hernandez founded American Dream Clean. The commercial cleaning company is committed to providing tutoring, mentoring and after school or summer school programs to the children of the people they employ.

According to Hernandez, the success of the business relies on the relationship and dedication that the tutors have with their students. 

Inspired by the company’s mission, Alana Luzzio ’17, decided to become a tutor with American Dream Clean this past year.

Although she had no previous experience in tutoring, she reached out to Hernandez over email and expressed her interest.

“I think that if more Bowdoin students knew about the program they would definitely be into being tutors,” said Luzzio

Luzzio spends time each week not only working closely with her students but also creating lessons plans and curriculums to best guide them towards success. She focuses on being able to connect with her students on a personal level. 

“I tutor once a week usually for an hour or an hour and half, but I always tell them if they need me they can text me, and I’m available anytime,” said Luzzio. “I’ll always pick up the phone.”
While Hernandez acknowledged the importance of increasing test scores and grades, he also hopes that the kids can begin to relate to their tutors and visualize themselves as college students. 

Hernandez’s end goal is for the kids of all of his employees to be on track for college and future careers. He also hopes that more companies like his own become mission-driven. 
“You could take the best of what a business can do and what a nonprofit can do and put them together to something that’s greater than the sum of the parts,” said Hernandez.

Combining the driving missions of nonprofits with the global reach of businesses ensures widespread social impact. Because the cleaning industry, according to Hernandez, faces a 300 percent annual turnover rate in its employees, Hernandez believes he is able to retain his employees and remain a competitive force in the market because of his social enterprise model. 
“If you want to beat me, you have to find someone who is going to work harder for you,” said Hernandez.

He hopes that millennials will deviate from the standard set by older generations that encourages social change through a “learn, earn, return” model.   

“I’m seeing again and again that there is real genuine interest in, ‘How do I have a life of meaningful work from day one?’” said Hernandez.
Hernandez has a message for students aspiring to make social change and achieve earnings in a capitalist world.

“Social enterprise is becoming a mainstream thing… it’s a different and better world,” he said. “I would encourage students who are wrestling with this problem that there’s hope.”

Students interested in getting involved with American Dream Clean can email Hernandez at JP.Hernandez@americandreamclean.com.