Lessons Learned from Luke Bonner's Journey

Luke  Bonner takes a moment after the presentation to visit with Salem basketball players.

Luke Bonner always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his famous siblings -- Matt and Becky. But after suffering a career-ending knee injury during his senior year in college, the youngest member of New Hampshire basketball’s royal family faced a harsh reality.

“I needed to recalibrate,” Bonner told a group of nearly 500 students at the Salem High School recently. “I knew I had to move on from basketball, but I had no idea what to do next.”

Bonner shared lessons from his journey with Salem and Pelham students at the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce Business Education Collaborative event held at the Seifert Performing Arts Center.

Stacey Kallelis, Work Based Learning Coordinator at Salem High School, helped organize the event and feels Bonner’s story holds lessons for her students.

“Luke’s unconventional journey to where he is now depended on keeping an open mind, finding those transferable skills, and using his network to reach his goals,” notes Kallelis, who met Bonner when they both served as interns for a Manchester marketing firm. “The message to students is that there is no one specific path to success, and as we reach each milestone in our life, things change and you have to adapt.”

Bonner began his transformation after his injury as a senior at the University of Massachusetts. Bonner told students, that even as he was trying to rehab, he began exploring other interests – such as volunteering at the college radio station and starting a blog. “Your priorities will shift,” he said. “Get out of your comfort zone and find out what you’re good at.”

Bonner still works at the marketing firm, but also writes for websites, attends conferences, and gives speeches. Following another of his interests, Bonner co-founded the College Athletes Players Association, which, in a landmark case, helped the Northwestern University football team gain the right to unionize.

He urged the students to make connections and identify what you’ve done that can be relevant to employers. “The things you’re doing today are building up to something,” he added.

Students participate in a mock networking event with Salem Area Chamber of Commerce members.

To emphasize that point, Kallelis organized a networking event prior to Bonner’s speech to give SHS business students, as well as a group from Pelham High School, a chance to learn the art of networking.

“It is important that we get in front of these students during the time of course selection through events such as Sophomore Career Day, which just ran for its 23rd year, and programs like this,” notes Kallelis. “My goal at SHS is to open student’s eyes to opportunities and encourage them to start thinking about their future, while at the same time connecting SHS with the community.”