Hensley said he dropped out of school more than 30 years ago, three months into his senior year, because, "One day I just decided school wasn't for me."
After dropping out of school Hensley went to work on his family's farm where he worked until retiring a couple of years ago.
Hensley said he was just lucky. Because he worked for his family, the lack of a high school diploma had never been a detriment for him. That is until he applied for a job as a bus driver last year, where it was a requirement.
Once again, Hensley in luck because he was hired anyway and given 12 months in which to acquire his GED.
"This really means a lot to me. I should have done it a long time ago. I was one of the lucky ones where not having a diploma didn't really hinder me from being successful, but I know that's not usually the case," Hensley said. "I couldn't have done it without Ed and Joann. They did a lot to help me."
Keynote speaker, Jessamine County School Superintendent Lu Young, told the graduates the ceremony was a celebration of their hard work, and their taking the first step to a new beginning.
"Your decision to return to school and get your GED was perhaps the hardest part of earning it. Making that decision to get your GED, will in fact be one of the most important decisions of your life," Young said. "You are prepared for better jobs and higher education. But whatever your decision, whatever path you take from here, remember, the beginning is the hardest part."
A beaming Kristy Crutcher, who had been out of school over five years, agreed with Young about the new possibilities for the graduates. "Oh my God. This means a lot. Now I can do anything I want to do. This opens up so many more doors for me," Crutcher said after the ceremony.
Crutcher, like several other graduates arrived at the ceremony with their children, some as young as 10 weeks old.
Many were able to work on their GED thanks to the Family Literacy Program, which allows students to bring their children with them to school.
Students in the program attend classes three days a week. "The child stays in the Child Development Center while mom is in class, but PACT, or parent/ child time is set aside for them to be together during the day," instructor Ed Mayfield said.
"Being able to take my 1 year old to school with me and let her share that journey with me, made it so much easier to go to school," Crutcher said. "The schedule gives the parent time with the children and lets us participate in what they are doing and lets them participate in what we are doing."
Houk, a Family Literacy Instructor, said students gain more than their GED through the program. "Through this, the parents become more confident in their ability to provide early childhood literacy to their children," Houk said.
While all graduation ceremonies are proud occasions, the air around the East Jessamine High School Auditorium was abuzz with excitement. Family members attending Thursday's ceremonies couldn't hide their excitement and pride they had in the accomplishments of their graduates, who had overcome many obstacles and earned their high school diploma.
Along the way, the students helped the Jessamine County program attain an 88 percent passing rate for the GED test, the highest passing rate of any non-college testing site in Kentucky.