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'He never draws attention to himself'

The only clue Serena High School senior Jasper Banister is hearing-impaired is the hearing aid he wears in his right ear.

At school, his situation isn’t much of an issue.

“Sometimes people forget, because it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal,” said Banister, who was born completely deaf in that right ear.

And if anyone is going to bring up Banister’s situation, it won’t be him.

“It’s never been an issue. He never draws attention to himself,” said David Hughes, Banister’s calculus teacher.

Banister’s day-to-day activities draw the attention more than his medical condition.

“Nothing seems to bother him. He’s a great kid to have in class, and I wish we had more like him,” Hughes added.

Between band, sports and working after school at a machine shop, the 18-year-old lifelong rural Serena resident keeps pretty busy.

Anyone looking for Banister on afternoons in the halls of his school could have difficulty. After taking classes in the morning, he leaves campus and drives a few miles east to Sheridan, where he works at KPI Machining Inc.

The shop, which has seven full-time employees, learned Banister might be interested in working there.

“We do some work with the company his dad works for. We were getting really busy and his dad said Jasper might be interested. So he came in for an interview and we hired him,” said Scott Carpenter, KPI president and director of quality control and sales.

The machine shop makes equipment and machine components. Banister began working there last summer as a general helper. He now operates and sets up machines, and is beginning to learn how to program machines.

“He was interested in engineering, which got his foot in the door rather than being just a kid needing a job,” said Eric Pine, KPI vice president and production manager.

Banister’s job is influencing his post-high school career interests. He hopes to attend Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, and earn an associate's degree in engineering. After that, he’s looking to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Southern Illinois University.

“Working at the machine shop kind of influenced me in that field. I like to know the ‘why’ as to what I’m doing at the machine shop.” he said.

Pine said Banister quickly was able to learn how to operate a manual machine, and he had advanced beyond an entry-level job at the shop.

“Human nature makes you think you’ll want to do was little as possible to get the job done,” Pine said. “Jasper is very patient. He surprises us. He does more than we expect.”

Banister’s work efforts sometimes shows up at school.

“He will bring in some math problems he tries to work out with his boss. He’ll do great in college,” Hughes said.

In the fall, Banister frequently returned to Serena after work, since he was a starting fullback on Serena’s varsity soccer team. A three-year player, Banister was a Times honorable mention All-Area 2017 player.

His spring sport, bass fishing, is an extension of a hobby he’s done most of his life.

“It’s relaxing. You can have a bad day but it’s still fun. You don’t have to be young to do it, either,” Banister said.

The Huskers’ bass fishing squad members practice by tying different knots and casting fishing lines into five-gallon buckets for accuracy. They fish at Silver Springs State Park, west of Yorkville, and compete in two or three spring tournaments.

“You have to be able to tie good knots and cast your lines one to two feet from where you want to,” Banister explained.

Soccer and bass fishing are sports, but to Banister, band is “like a big family. And it’s a stress reliever.”

He began playing the guitar at a young age, and now plays tuba and alto saxophone in concert band and tenor and baritone sax in a cooperative jazz band at Somonauk High School.

Geoffrey Pierce teaches middle school and high school music at Serena, and says he can count on Banister as a leader who works with some middle school musicians.

“He’s very dependable. He works hard and tries to be the best he can,” Pierce said of Banister.

A natural ability for music hasn’t slowed down Banister, Pierce said, and admires how well the student plays music despite his hearing loss.

“He works to overcome it and does a very good job,” the music instructor said.

Additional Banister activities include FFA and National Honor Society. He also runs a camera during Sunday services at Harvest Chapel Church, Sandwich.

When it comes to attending class, Banister has long learned to adjust to his hearing loss.

“I have it worked out now that if we watch a video I can watch the closed captioning on the screen,” he said. “I’ve managed to be able to read teachers’ lips. That helps me understand them.”

As for personal communication, “He’s really quiet. That doesn’t always work well in the shop but he’s getting more talkative,” Carpenter said.

Banister believes he is an organized person, and is counting on those skills to help him in the future.

“Many of my classmates are indecisive. For me to have a plan and know what I’m doing makes it easier for the guidance counselor and the teachers,” he said.

Just as he does living with hearing loss, Banister makes adjustments.

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