Saplings given to graduating Goshen High School seniors

Apr. 30—GOSHEN — Seniors at Goshen High School received a tree seedling from the Goshen Environmental Resiliency Department on Tuesday. It's part of a newly established tradition in Goshen.

"Part of what we hope to communicate is that as these kids are graduating, though they may not be sticking around in Goshen, they have roots here and we hope that they return and that they are able to visit these trees again," said City Forester Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley. "Their roots here are real and that's what matters."

The idea originated inside of the Goshen Tree Board, to which Sawatsky-Kingsley is the city staff member assigned, in 2020 during the pandemic.

"We were partly thinking about our canopy goal, 45% by 2045, looking at some strategies for getting trees into the community and into our neighborhoods," Sawatsky-Kingsley said. "We were also just thinking about some positive responses to make to the pandemic. What would something symbolic and life-giving and joyful be that we could do?"

Since 2020, around 2,000 trees have been ordered to give to graduating seniors.

"Those who aren't seniors, we want them to be aware that their turn will come to, so begin thinking about where a tree can go, knowing that when you graduate, a tree is coming," Sawatsky-Kingsley said.

Seniors at both Goshen High School and Bethany Christian School receive a tree seedling from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, purchased by the city at a very reduced rate. They purchase around 500 in late fall and just a few days before they're delivered to the students.

Species are American beech, scarlet oak, persimmon, honey locust, eastern red bud, and serviceberry. Sawatsky-Kingsley explained that they aim for a mix of sizes and types. Some are small and some are large, some flowering, and offer good shade as they mature.

"We also have an eye on species that are projected to do better in our climate change scenario and climate projections," Sawatsky-Kingsley said. "We're steering toward trees that will do better in warmer conditions, possibly wetter conditions too."

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at or at 574-538-2065.