Irene Sessa pours her full heart into all she does. Her focused work and determination brings to fruition all she believes in. Community, education and family are her passions. These are the driving forces behind who she is at her core. She is a woman filled with heart, with goals, with a desire to create change for the better. As she describes the parts that make her whole, the heartfelt emotion she feels spills out in almost a contagious way. Listening to her tell her story, the emotion she expels draws you in as if you are there with her- embracing her joy, her determination, her excitement. “I am just so blessed” she says over and over as she reminisces.
Irene grew up in in Brooklyn, NY. It was there that she and her late husband Mario married and began their careers and family. Mario worked as a US Special Agent who traveled the world training law enforcement. Irene dedicated her career to the NYC board of education. She describes herself and Mario as “two city kids” and follows up with, “Who would have thought we would end up on a farm!” The farm she speaks of is where she now calls home, Victory Stables, a 32-acre horse farm nestled in the heart of Colts Neck. She says, “God puts you where He wants you to be, and here we are.”
Irene and Mario moved to Colts Neck 40 years ago and have been part of creating the stellar reputation the town carries ever since. Mario began his involvement in community service, first with the Sports Foundation, and later with the Farmland Preservation Committee which he served as Vice-Chairperson.
During that time Irene focused on motherhood as well as her career. She held titles such as teacher, vice principal, principal mentor and adjunct professor. Irene was always pursuing one university degree after another and applying those skills to strengthen the schools and the students for whom she was responsible. With her lifelong passion for the process of educating, Irene won countless awards and recognition. The schools in which she was assigned, always ranked at the highest level among the 1800 in NYC. It was as if she had a magic touch. Everyone wanted to know the secret of her success. Irene attributes that success to discovering, from the onset, a child’s strengths, interests and talents and then building on those strengths, instilling confidence. At that point, remediating student challenges and introducing more difficult concepts are readily accepted. It is also necessary to everyone’s success to feel that his presence and contribution to the school community was of great value. Each person, big or small, old or young was embraced, respected and loved! The sign at the door as you entered the school read, “Love Prepares the Mind for Learning”, and so it did!
Winning by a landslide in 2011, Irene was sworn in as a Colts Neck Board Member and re-elected in 2014. She was inspired by Mario’s example of always giving back to the Colts Neck Community and in his honor continued his legacy. Irene, with her professional abilities and fifty years experience as an educator, was assigned to most of the standing committees. As Chair of the Curriculum and Communication Committees, Irene was able to be a catalyst for many of the astounding advancements that changed the educational landscape and brought forth a new era of a world class school district. Her enthusiastic and tireless efforts on behalf of the children of Colts Neck resulted in an exemplary full day, tuition free Kindergarten and a full day Preschool Program. Irene was a staunch supporter of the implementation of the STEM initiative from K-8, (Science, Engineering, Engineering, Technology) and expanding the Enrichment and World Language opportunities. Priority was also shifted to raising the bar for all students through a rigor of instruction that was accelerated, engaging and highly motivating. For the entire length of her elected terms Irene was the Colts Neck Delegate to the New Jersey School Board Association and the Monmouth County School Board. She served as Vice President and participated on the selection committees choosing the new administration team that is currently in place. On the eve of May 10, 2017, Irene was honored by her fellow Board Members and the Administration for her remarkable contribution to the children, the school district and the community at large.
The ultimate driving force for Irene has always been her family. Mario and Irene have four children, Adele Sessa, Al Sessa, Josephine Sessa Agliata and Paul Sessa. Paul currently lives in California, pursuing his career at NBC Universal Theme Park as Senior Manager of Production and Design. Adele, Al and Josephine remain in Colts Neck along with their families. Irene’s seven grandchildren are at the center of her world, and she speaks of them as though they are her best friends, each being special to her in his own way. Irene is ecstatic to have had all her grandchildren attend the Colts Neck schools while she was on the Board. “I would have been devastated if my children chose to send them anywhere else,”.
Irene believes that children in school need more of a voice, since they are the major stakeholders. “All decisions, ultimately affect their education.” With her grandchildren attending class while she served on the board of education, it gave Irene the opportunity to listen to their words and apply them to her work. Each of her grandchildren shared something about their grandmother.
“I love how my Grandma connects with people so easily and finds the good in every single person”- Isabella, 15
“I love that my Grandmother helped to influence the education of my sisters, cousins and me” Sophia, 13
“My Grandma was able to make things better in the schools, to fix what wasn’t working.”- Abigail, 12
“Grandma expects us to study and get good grades. She was so happy when I got a perfect score on the Science NJ ASK test.” – Mario, 11
“Everyone knew me when Grandma was on the Board…it was like being a celebrity!” – Vincent, 11
“I think my Grandma should be a substitute teacher in my class”- Josephine, 9
“I talked to Grandma about lunches, that the broccoli should be cooked and pizza should be served more than once a week”- Chaz, 8
“Irene’s life and home are filled with pictures, quotes and gifts, reminders of the ones who mean the most to her. She holds dear to her heart the family traditions of Sunday dinners and weekend sleep-overs with her grandchildren, soccer games, horse competitions, dance recitals, school events, birthdays, holidays and a myriad of other celebrations. Living close makes it easy to be together. Irene often smiles to herself thinking that people would not believe that she lives in a constant state of euphoria, contentment and love. “I feel so blessed, so grateful, so fulfilled.
“I am living the dream, and it’s glorious – a pension, good health and sharing life with the ones I love the most, my family.”