From EVIT to her own bakery, alumna lives dream

From EVIT to her own bakery, alumna lives dream
Posted on 10/11/2021
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Jackie Chaussee Shappell never really liked school until she discovered the East Valley Institute of Technology. Fifteen years later, she owns and operates her own successful bakery and credits EVIT with getting her through high school and training her for a career she loves.

“I wasn’t the most outgoing kid. I was more shy and reserved. But I felt so comfortable at EVIT; the staff and the program were exactly what I needed. I always felt like I belonged there,” said Shappell, who completed one year of Culinary Arts and two years of Commercial Baking and Pastry Arts at EVIT in 2006. She now owns and operates the Cake This! bakery out of her Queen Creek home. “To this day, I tell everyone, EVIT is what got me through high school.”

EVIT offers over 40 career training programs for high school students and adults at two central campuses in Mesa and a branch campus at Apache Junction High School. High school students attend their school for a half-day, and EVIT for a half-day of tuition-free career education. Adult students pay tuition, with financial aid available in some programs for those who qualify.

“The main thing that stands out to me about my time at EVIT is that it wasn’t just about the program you are in; it goes beyond the skills of the trade,” Shappell said. “The instructors truly wanted to see the students succeed and that made the time spent there so wonderful and rewarding.”

She enjoyed her EVIT training so much that she cooked dinner for her family every night while she was in high school. But it was the cake decorating that fed her passion. “I love the creativity aspect of cake decorating,” she said. “I love the process from start to finish, the designing and execution of each order I take.”

Shappell was working part-time at a restaurant when she completed her EVIT training. She then moved into a management position at a small local bakery, followed by jobs in the wedding and event industry, a cake decorator position in a grocery store, and helping with her family’s tanning salon for several years. Then in 2019, when the family business was sold, Shappell decided to start her own business – Cake This!

“With the support of my husband and family, I was able to finally see if I could make this work full-time. It was terrifying, but has been very rewarding,” she said. While being a home-based entrepreneur is not easy, Shappell says it’s worth it because she has a special sidekick with her every day – her 5-year-old son. “I get to live my dream, making cakes from my home and raising my son.”

Her bakery has grown to the point that she is booked out six weeks in advance year-round. “I feel beyond blessed for the opportunity to pursue this passion that helps bring joy to people,” she said. “My education at EVIT greatly contributed to what I am able to do today.”

She recommends that other students check out EVIT. “I would tell anyone, don’t hesitate,” she said. “Your dreams are within reach if you have the right skills in your pocket – and that’s what EVIT did for me, gave me the skills to go for my dreams.”

This year, EVIT is celebrating its 30th anniversary of changing lives. EVIT students have a 98% high school graduation rate, two out of three go on to college and 94% are in jobs related to their training, college or the military within a year of completing their program. More information: