Becomes First High School in the State to be Recognized as National Arboretum 

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights has been awarded official Accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and The Morton Arboretum, for achieving particular standards of professional practices deemed important for arboreta and botanic gardens. The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program is the only global initiative to officially recognize arboreta at various levels of development, capacity, and professionalism. Governor Livingston High School’s campus is also now recognized as an accredited arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a database of the world’s arboreta and gardens dedicated to woody plants.

Nestled in the heart of the Watchung Mountains, Governor Livingston’s campus embraces the beauty of the natural environment while expanding the biodiversity of the area. Through this expansion, Governor Livingston now boasts 45 different species of identified trees on the beautiful 39-acre campus. More than 20 of which have plaques with QR codes that will take you directly to more information about the tree. Others have numbers that you can use to look them up on the Plants website.

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The arboretum began as a brainstorm and passion project of Lara Mendenhall, Governor Livingston Environmental Science Teacher, that started after she visited Arlington National Cemetery with her children. Working with her student, Natalie Calageri, the two initiated the project and gained support from High School Principal, Robert Nixon. Major progress was made by Jess Franolic, whose hard work resulted in the planting of 12 trees on the campus. Since then, work on the arboretum has been carried on each year by many GL students in Environmental Science and Biology classes in the form of citizen science projects and research. This coupled with the help and support of members of the Governor Livingston staff and Richard Leister, Environmental Commission Chair for Berkeley Heights Township, has resulted in the Highlander Arboretum at GL becoming a reality.

The Highlander Arboretum has over 48 identified trees in 16 families on the beautiful 39-acre Governor Livingston High School campus. Since 2016, GL students have planted 25 native trees on campus, including 13 different species. Thanks to the support of the PTO more than 20 of which have plaques with QR codes that will take you directly to more information about the tree. Others have numbers that you can use to look them up on the Plants website. They also have a number of trees that have yet to be identified.

“We are so proud of this prestigious recognition and the hard work of Lara Mendendel and her students,” says James Finley, District Supervisor of Science. “The Berkeley Heights School District is dedicated to supporting sustainable developments and initiatives. Our campus arboretum will help support environmental education and appreciation for all students in our schools and members of the entire Berkeley Heights community.” 

More information about the Highlander Arboretum at Governor Livingston High School can be found here: A formal dedication and ribbon cutting will be scheduled once schools are cleared to reopen.

 About Governor Livingston High School 

Governor Livingston High School provides students with a world-class, whole-child education that offers equitable opportunities for all students. This occurs in a collaborative environment that infuses a comprehensive curriculum with 21st-century skills including critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation. All students will become responsible at the global, community, and personal levels. Governor Livingston High School has a long tradition of excellence that is bolstered by a supportive community, motivated students, and a hard-working and innovative teaching staff.   

 About ArbNet
ArbNet is an interactive, collaborative, international community of arboreta. ArbNet facilitates the sharing of knowledge, experience, and other resources to help arboreta meet their institutional goals and works to raise professional standards through the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. The accreditation program, sponsored and coordinated by The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois in cooperation with American Public Gardens Association and Botanic Gardens Conservation International, is the only global initiative to officially recognize arboreta based on a set of professional standards. The program offers four levels of accreditation, recognizing arboreta of various degrees of development, capacity and professionalism. Standards include planning, governance, public access, programming and tree science, planting, and conservation. More information is available at