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Highland alum welds ‘River Eagle’ sculpture

Jay Castro of Freeport retired from teaching art at Freeport High School years ago but recently returned to his welding roots at Highland Community College to complete his “River Eagle” sculpture, which is planned to display in June at Marquette Park in Savanna, Ill. Castro, a Navy veteran, wanted to add a metal sculpture that portrays an eagle draping the American flag over a cross symbolizing the United States and its fallen veterans.

The steel used for the sculpture was salvaged from the Savanna-Sabula bridge that once crossed the Mississippi River until it was replaced in 2018. Highland Community College also helped fund the project by donating $100 in scraps from the College’s welding program.

Since Castro was a Highland welding student ten years ago, he was familiar with the College’s facility, so he contacted HCC to use the welding shop for the project.

“I have worked with Jay before and we are honored to have been a part in this project, not only to help provide technical assistance but to know he has stayed connected to the college as a former student,” said Scott Anderson, Vice President of Business, Technology and Community Programs at Highland Community College “He returned to offer something to our current students.”

Castro worked alongside other welding students, teaching them his techniques, and also giving the students a chance to learn as they watched artistry in motion.

“Welding is another paintbrush for an artist,” Castro said. “I had never welded such large structures together before to make the 7-foot by 14-foot statue. I had the students from the Highland welding class help me, and we all learned together. I tried to make it an experience for all of us as a whole.”

“The sculpture is a good statement piece and we are proud to be part of something that will be around for others to enjoy,” said Anderson.

Castro said the 7-foot wingspan will be added to the bronzed head of the eagle. He is hoping to be able to unveil the sculpture by the end of June.

“It was 10 years ago that I took the Welding 130 class at Highland,” Castro said. “Highland has an excellent welding facility. Students can work at their speed, and as a former teacher, I am impressed with the current welding program at the college.”

To learn more about Highland’s Welding program, visit It’s not too late to get registered for the fall semester. Call 815-235-6121 to get started.


Castro and Eagle: Jay Castro of Freeport sits next to part of the eagle project he welded at Highland Community College in Freeport.

Castro and Eagle head: The eagle head will sit on top of a 7-foot wingspan of an eagle, which will be mounted on a 14-foot tall cross made from the beams of the former Savanna-Sabula bridge in Savanna.