Did you know that Kids X-Press Magazine actually began as an elementary school newspaper?
Over 15 years ago, several parents were eager to develop a newspaper at their children's school - the George Washington Elementary School in White Plains, NY. Michele Bellantoni, Christina Cirillo and Nivia Viera were instrumental in organizing this effort, and the Cherry Tree Press was created. The response from children – especially from those who wanted to be writers and illustrators - was overwhelming. The parents sensed they were onto something exciting.
Kids X-Press Magazine was a direct result of this idea. Drawing upon their combined professional skills and backgrounds and — most importantly — their desire to spark an interest in writing, Bellantoni, Cirillo and Viera launched Kids X-Press, Inc., in 2001, as a non-profit organization based in White Plains NY. The quarterly publication today has an annual circulation of 250,000 copies and has reached over 2 million readers!
After Bellantoni and Cirillo left Kids X-Press in 2004, Viera assumed leadership of the organization. She was encouraged by business and community leaders to expand the organization's outreach efforts, especially in under-resourced communities. Given her personal background and early introduction to the importance of literacy and self-expression, this was a mission Viera embraced.
“I was born the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants,” said Viera. “I grew up in the Bronx, NY and English was not my first language. My parents spoke Spanish at home and I learned English at school and became the family translator at a very young age. That had tremendous importance in my life and my family's as well.” Even though it would be many years before the idea of publishing a children's magazine that gave kids their own voice, the literacy seed was planted.
Generating funding for Kids X-Press was another area where Viera put much of her time and energy. “ I met with business leaders, politicians, community oriented groups, to advocate for what I believed was so important for kids,” she explained. “ There wasn't another magazine like it out there, and I saw great potential and appeal of a publication by kids, for kids.” Fortunately, her constituents agreed and the financial support structure and distribution model Viera was hoping for began to emerge. Building on a solid base, Kid X-Press is now thriving.
Kids X-Press is so grateful to Nivia Viera and paid tribute to her relentless contributions at her retirement party on May 20, 2015. Her dedication to helping children succeed will always be a testament to her commitment to children regardless of their abilities, race, creed or culture.