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Circle City Prep’s lesson in Black history has special meaning to school’s culinary club

First-graders learn about Georgia Gilmore’s role in the Montgomery bus boycott during a read aloud of “Pies from Nowhere” from their teacher, Olivia Hayes on Feb. 22, 2024, at Circle City Prep school in Indianapolis. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Chalkbeat)

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First-grader Alayah Parks sat quietly while her teacher read her class, “Pies from Nowhere,” the story of Georgia Gilmore, the civil rights activist who used her cooking skills to help fund the historic Montgomery bus boycott.

“Standing up for other people and standing up for yourself is good,” Alayah said, “and is better when it makes your community happy.”

The students in teacher Olivia Hayes’ class learned how Gilmore organized a secret cooking operation after Black residents in Montgomery began boycotting the bus system to protest unequal treatment in December 1955. The proceeds from the sales helped pay for alternative modes of transportation that the city’s Black residents used during the 381-day boycott.

But the story holds special significance for this school on the far eastside — this semester, Circle City Prep launched its culinary club for students at the K-8 school, which plans to host a bake sale to raise money during the school’s Black History Month celebration next week.

Culinary club students also learned about Gilmore’s impact and the connection between food sales and the civil rights movement, when NFL player and Indianapolis native David Bell read them the book earlier this month.

“Hopefully, it just shows them that they can do things to maybe one day be their own business owner, or be able to raise money for themselves,” said Crystal Prell, a club leader who also works in the school’s kitchen.

The club of about 15 students meets twice a week, cooking fried chicken, grilled cheese, and garlic bread pizza. Prell hopes to use the funds from the bake sale to buy more stovetop burners and ingredients for future recipes.

Students will sell their baked goods at the school, 4002 N. Franklin Road, just before the school’s Black History Month celebration at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education.