Steven Gonnella credits Kittatinny Regional High School's sport management program and Seton Hall's Stillman School of Business, with his having landed a dream job at Madison Square Garden.
By Meghan Byers NEWTON — It was during his junior year at Kittatinny Regional High School (KRHS), on a field trip to New York City with his Sport Management class, that Steven Gonnella first visited Madison Square Garden, backstage. “I was blown away,” he said. “I absolutely loved it, the whole excitement of it. It’s on another level...I knew that was where I wanted to be.” KRHS helped pave Gonnella’s path toward his dream, offering classes that led him to pursue his dream job. Gonnella, who was involved in both basketball and track and field while at KRHS, graduated in 2010 and went on to obtain his business administration degree, with concentration in sport management, at Seton Hall University. “I loved my time at KRHS,” said Gonnella. “I think it’s a fantastic school...The sports management program was a huge step in making my decision.” A series of internships brought Gonnella inching closer to his goal, until he was able to get a temporary position in group sales at Madison Square Garden in 2016. By the next year, he was working at MSG full-time—fulfilling the dream he’d fostered since his junior year in high school. Currently Gonnella is a group sales specialist, reaching out to fans and businesses to offer behind-the-scenes experiences at MSG. “I create unique experiences that not everybody has access to,” Gonnella explained. In the past this has included offering classes with the Rockettes, or bringing basketball fans down onto the court to meet their favorite Knicks player. “My go-to is to make someone’s day,” said Gonnella. “Putting smiles on people’s faces and helping them disconnect from everyday life – maybe they’re enjoying some time away from work, or a night out with their family, because of me...I have thank you notes all over my desk.” One experience he found particularly rewarding was helping a woman and her sick father get in to see the Christmas Spectacular, providing them with an entertaining distraction from a difficult circumstance. “My credo is going above and beyond for no reason at all, because there’s huge payback from that,” Gonnella said. For two years, Gonnella commuted two hours each way, five days a week, to New York City from Hampton Township, spurred onward by his love for his work. When asked what his advice was for current students seeking out their future career paths, Gonnella said the most important thing is to “keep going.” “When you’re ready to give up, don’t," he said. "Keep pushing, and make sure to keep positive.” Gonnella also said that one of the most important lessons he’s learned is to “control the controllables,” and try not to worry about what’s out of his control. As far as his future, Gonnella has his sights set on moving up to an account executive position at MSG, with an end goal of becoming a manger. He also hopes to help arrange for more KRHS students to have the opportunity to tour MSG, just as he did, and potentially inspire other students to pursue their own career dreams. “If I can impact just one person, it’s worth it."