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GAF Roofing Academy Graduate Profile: Andre Henson

By Karen L Edwards

September 07, 2022

Roofing Academy graduate Andre Henson.

The GAF Roofing Academy is making a difference in the lives of its students and in local communities throughout the U.S. The program offers both classroom and on-the-roof training at no cost to participants, and whenever possible, the on-the-roof training portion helps provide roofs to those in need, working hand in hand with GAF's non-profit partners.

As part of GAF Community Matters, GAF led a special initiative in the Gulf Coast region to help build resiliency following the devastating hurricanes that impacted families and communities. This was a perfect opportunity to offer a GAF Roofing Academy class in the area that would train community members, like Louisiana native Andre Henson, in essential roofing skills and contribute toward repairs and reroofs for affected homes. Additionally, the class was joined by acclaimed actor, and New Orleans native, Anthony Mackie to work alongside the students to help reroof a home in their community

We had the chance to speak with Henson, who graduated with this special GAF Roofing Academy class, about his experience with the program, its impact on his life, and how giving back to a veteran in the Gulf Coast community affected him.

Q&A with Andre Henson

What was it like growing up in New Orleans?

Growing up in New Orleans, everybody was close. All my family would stay right down the street from each other. I would see them every day, and we just had that relationship that was very tight-knit.

I'm super blessed. My mom was in the military. We were down here probably a year before Katrina hit, and then we moved up to north Louisiana. She invested in real estate, so we were always just out at the houses cutting grass, fixing places, and we stayed active.

What are some of the challenges you faced after being relocated by a storm?

I'd say the biggest challenge was getting out there to meet new people and understanding different walks of life. People from Louisiana are different than people from Texas; people from Texas don't act like people from California. It's just getting used to different surroundings and interacting with different people.

How did the storms that hit New Orleans affect your family?

My mom's part of the family all came up to north Louisiana. It was just like a big family reunion. I had cousins that I didn't really know well, and now we were going to school together, so it was like the storms brought us closer together. That was the upside of the storms.

They were out of their homes for about a year and a half. But my mom had real estate houses, so she put them in the houses and [told them] whenever you're ready to leave, you can leave.

Why did you decide to take part in the GAF Roofing Academy?

The reason why I decided to join the GAF Roofing Academy was because I wanted to find a new trade. I've done fitness, I've done construction, I've done demolition, but not roofing—roofing was new for me. I joined the class, and the instructors were very knowledgeable. I loved the course—he was very hands-on. That's what I really liked about the course.

How does it feel to be able to give back to others affected by the storms through GAF Community Matters?

It's an unforgettable feeling. [The homeowner is] a veteran, and my mom's a veteran, so I know the toll that takes on them. Having the community come out and reach out their hand—I know that he's going to sleep good at night knowing that his community cares about him.

Were you surprised to see actor Anthony Mackie at the project?

I was like, wow! He comes up, and I was thinking he's probably here for publicity, but he actually knows about roofing. His parents owned a roofing company, and he's been doing this since he was eight years old. He was up there teaching me some things I didn't know. I just got done with the class, and he's an expert. So, I'm just taking all the pointers he can give me.

How do you think learning the skill of roofing will impact your future?

I feel like it's a lifelong trade that I will forever know, and I'll be able to pass it down to my kids, my cousins, and my family members. My mom is in real estate, so if she has a roofing problem, I can go up there. I know how to [install] shingles. GAF has taught me a whole lot about everything I need to know.

I am looking to start a career in roofing. I want to learn from the inside out how roofing works, and they are setting us up for interviews.

Getting Involved

Want to know more about how you can learn a new trade at the GAF Roofing Academy while supporting your community? Find training near you and sign up to take a class today.

About the Author

Karen L. Edwards is a freelance writer for the construction industry and has a passion for roofing, having worked in the industry for 20 years.

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