Do You Want to Play with Balloons at the APW Studio?

Join us in supporting East Oakland Schools

Every time we do a photo shoot at APW, a bunch of you guys say to us, “I wish I could be there for that!” And every time we’re like, “We wish you could too!” But, you know, office life being what it is, we typically aren’t able to open up our studio doors on a random afternoon and invite a bunch of new friends to hang out with balloons and take pictures. EXCEPT NOW WE ARE. And the best part: it’s for a really good reason. On Saturday, February 24th, we’re hosting a photo pop-up at the APW studio in East Oakland (complete with a balloon wall, because ask and you shall receive) to benefit one of our local elementary schools.

Benefiting AN East Oakland Elementary School

Since APW isn’t really a parenting blog, I don’t talk much about my passion for public schools. So let me take a time-out to talk about one of the things I care about the most. Here is the backstory. My husband and I were born and raised in San Bernardino, California. That doesn’t ring a bell for most people, but these days it’s the second poorest city in the United States, second only to Detroit. When we were growing up, we didn’t have that particular distinction, though we had a number of other awful titles (including most murders per capita in California, and fifth in the nation), along with a cratering economy. We also happened to grow up in the ’80s, during an era where busing was still being used to integrate public schools. This meant that we grew up attending majority non-white schools in inner city neighborhoods, and we happened to go to a high school that is one of the rare schools in the long and troubled history of public education in the U.S., in that it was fully integrated. That meant that no single race or income level had a majority at the school. And to forestall all the questions that come next: We got a great education (we both have full I.B. diplomas), went on to top colleges, and ended up with a very different view of the world than most people know who grew up without integrated education. It also means that we’re passionate advocates for integrated public education.

Now that our oldest in is public school, we’re sending him to a local East Oakland school… even though Oakland schools have a serious problem with segregation and separate and unequal education. We also love his school. His teacher is teaching in the classroom where she started kindergarten in 1969. And she has been teaching transitional kindergarten and kindergarten at the school since the early ’80s. His aftercare program is full of wildly diverse and super devoted educators. I’ve started tutoring at the school through Reading Partners, helping to bring kids up to grade level. (If you’re in Oakland, you can do this too! Tons of kids are waiting to be paired with an adult who can read with them.) The kids are smart, kind, and totally delightful. Our son loves his school so much that he talks about it day and night.

It also is a Title 1 school, with 75 percent of the kids receiving free or reduced-cost lunch. That means that unlike wealthier schools in Oakland, the PTA does not have easy options to raise much-needed funds. Title I schools are always strapped for cash and resources. But due to Oakland Unified School District’s budget crisis, our school’s operating budget was slashed by $64,000 midyear. That means fewer resources for the kids that need it the most, kids that are some of the most delightful small humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

And that’s where we come in, all of us. The APW team decided that we could open up our studio to all of you, to help us raise money for this amazing school. So many of us think and talk about inequality in the age of Trump, but we are not sure what clear actions we can take to help. So today, we’ve got a really simple action that you can take (and if you live in the Bay Area, you can get a fun afternoon of confetti and balloons and some great photos out of it). Here is what you can do:

Pregnant woman standing by a windowCome Join Us!

If you’re in the Bay Area, sign up to join us in the APW studios on Saturday, February 24th to get your photo taken. We’ll have a wild and fun balloon backdrop and a plain and simple white backdrop. That way you can get cool photos for Instagram or that LinkedIn profile picture… or both. And because the APW community is great, a bunch of really amazing APW sponsor photographers have donated their time to the event, so you can get fun photos taken by a super talented professional for less than the cost of brunch.

  • We’re asking for a $35 minimum donation for a single person to get their photos done (profile picture, we gotchu).
  • For couples and families, we’re asking for a $50 minimum donation.


If you’re not local, or can’t make it, or just don’t want to leave the house, you can still help out! We’ll be hosting an online fundraiser too. Right now the school is trying to raise $15,000, and they’ve already gotten a lot of support from the local community, but we’re trying to put a big dent in that number. (If everyone who reads Happy Hour each week donated just $2, we’d be more than a third of the way there.)

How to get involved

To sign up for the popup, head over to our Eventbrite page, and register for a free ticket. There you’ll get all the logistical information about the event (aka how to find our studio and when to show up). Your session is donation-based at the door (with a minimum suggested donation of $35) and all proceeds from the event will go straight to the local elementary school PTA. Here are the full details:

Individual Photo Session (Headshots, Portraits): Suggested donation $35

  • 10 minute session
  • Choice of backdrop
  • Digital download of all photos taken
  • Perfect for LinkedIn profile pictures, any profile pictures, or a fun visit to the APW clubhouse with lots of confetti and photos for Instagram

Couple or Family Photo Session: Suggested donation $50

  • 10 minute session
  • Choice of backdrop
  • Digital download of all photos taken
  • Perfect for family portraits, kid photos, on-the-fly engagement photos, pictures for your wedding website, or a fun visit to the APW clubhouse with lots of confetti and photos for Instagram

When we moved into our new offices, we knew we wanted to make it part of the APW mission to support the community we’ve made our home, and this month we have a great chance to do just that. If you can come, we’d love to hang out with you. And if not, stay tuned for more opportunities like this (and please donate).

As always, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting APW, and for letting us pay that support forward.

(If you want to read more about issues of school segregation, I recommend the work of Nikole Hannah-Jones, particularly her New York Times article about picking a school for her daughter, and her recent Fresh Air interview.)

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  • Ceka

    I am so excited that your kiddo is going to your local public school in Oakland! We are doing the same thing over here in Harlem – Title I school with a lot of heart and hustle. We love it and I would totally recommend checking out your local public school.

    People told us that NYC public schools were bad…and those people had not bothered to take the tour. We toured our school when our oldest was a baby, realized it was awesome, and promptly dropped out of the NYC school anxiety rat race.

    Take the tour, parents! And, yes, read up on school integration like Meg said. Do your bit to make your local school a little more integrated, and encourage your friends to do likewise.

    My husband and I have spent the last 3-4 years telling everyone who would listen that we were sending our kid to our public school and that it was great, and it worked. A solid 1/3 of the playgroup my husband ran is at our public school. 1/3 of our kid’s private preschool class is now in universal PK at our public school. 2/3 of the kids in our building are at universal PK there. Do not underestimate the power of acting as an anchor for nervous parents.

    • It shocks me that people just insist schools are bad without looking at them. They’ll also insist they’re bad to my face, even though I have a kid there and they’ve never even taken a tour.

  • Sarah

    I know this isn’t a parenting blog, but I’m interested to see how Meg’s kids continue to do at their school. Our 2 year olds elem school is Title I and we’re very much thinking about our options for the future.

    • I think you’ll pull us kicking and screaming from public schools, and it’s very important to us that they’re in a non majority white school. They may or may not stay in a Title I school, since that isn’t the singular issue for me, diversity (including economic diversity) is. (Though, edited to add, looking at the other schools we’re sort of considering for next year, I guess they’re also Title I or very close, since that starts at 40% free and reduced lunch.)

      ALL THAT SAID, you never know till you know, and I know nothing about parenting kids a day older than my oldest.

      • flashphase

        Are there other Jewish families at your school? How have you found that?

        • Meg Keene

          Not that I know of. It hasn’t really felt like an issue though, there are tons of Muslim and Buddhist families, so there is plenty of religious diversity. And my oldest will start Hebrew school next year.

  • Lawyerette510

    So excited for this, will definitely be donating because public schools deserve the support, especially in Oakland. I’d like to do the photo thing, my burning question is can Mr. Lawyerette and I bring the new dog (9 lbs and totally friendly)? Because what I really want good pics for is an adoption announcements to mail out about the pup.

    • Jane

      Same question! Our dog is also totally friendly but quite a bit bigger.

      • Meg Keene

        Like 180 pounds bigger? Because that’s our USUAL dog size around here.

        • Jane

          Wow! That’s a lot of dog. My dog is small by comparison – a mere 55 lbs.

      • Jane
        • Lawyerette510

          Look at that sweet face!!! I want to snuggle that sweet pup!!!

        • Jess

          what a sweetheart!

        • Zoya

          That is one soulful face right there!

      • We take dogs up to 180 pounds, as long as you can manage them around kids. We also have a backyard if they need to be out of the room for a sec because a two year old is sobbing!

        • Jane

          Hmmmm. I’ll have to see if I can talk my husband into this. He’s not big on photos but is big on public schools, so maybe? And I am big on schools and balloons.

    • Meg Keene

      We’ve had photo shoot with 180 pound dog and a cat here so yes! As long as you’re fine with working with kids who might be scared of dogs, bring away!

      • Lawyerette510

        Oh definitely. Stanley loves to be a canine ambassador.

    • Zoya

      Wait, I will totally haul my butt from Silicon Valley to Oakland in order to meet Sir Stanley.

      • Lawyerette510

        Well, he’ll be at the event, just sprinkles on top of the sundae of awesomeness that surely the day will be.

  • lildutchgrrl

    As a librarian in East Oakland (working and living), I support this. And just donated.

    • Meg Keene


  • Anne

    Well hello, fellow IB diploma graduate of a diverse inner city high school!!!!! I feel like everyone from my high school and everyone I have met with a similar background really gets the huge importance of public education policy and is proud of the education they received. So I’m so excited to learn that Meg is part of that club and that APW is bringing attention to this issue! Heading over to donate now.

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  • Amy March

    Love all of this except that it is in CA!

    • Donate, and we will send you balloons in spirit!!

  • Kara Davies

    I totally would but flights from Oz are prohibitively expensive right now.

  • Katie

    Not a public school, but an educator in a Title 1 all-Hispanic charter school, so I understand your concerns. Can’t contribute much, but just donated a little bit. Good luck!

    • Sarah

      Charters are public, still funded by taxpayer dollars and still need support. Thanks for your work.

      • Katie

        Thank you.
        I meant “not public” in the way that it’s not a part of ISD, and no one really equals them to public school around here, even though they do get government funds.

  • Amanda Can

    Donated! Please come on over to the east coast sometime :D

  • Lexipedia

    As someone who may (somewhat suddenly) be moving to the East Bay in the near future, and has a partner who works for a school district, thank you! I wish I could come, but I’m donating in absentia. Sometime I’d love recommendations for Oakland neighborhoods to look at, as we don’t know a ton about anywhere other than the northern most part of the city and our only friends living there with small kids are in Upper Rockridge, Claremont, etc.