Achieving More. Justin Raha
At age 26, pastry chef Justin Raha has a sweet life as the owner of Grand Finale Desserts & Pastries in Grand Haven, and he credits Careerline Tech Center for putting him on the path to success.
Justin's business is a wholesale bakery that provides breakfast pastries, baked goods, and desserts to local coffee shops and markets. It appears, however, that's not enough to fulﬁll his passion for the industry as Justin also commits time and talent to teaching college students at the Culinary Institute of Michigan at Baker College.
Although he always had an appetite for the food industry, his "aha" moment – the moment he knew exactly what he wanted to do for a career - happened after enrolling in the Careerline Tech Center's Culinary & Pastry Arts program during his junior year of high school.
During their junior and senior years, Ottawa area high school students can choose to spend half of their school day in one of several career training programs at Careerline Tech Center where they earn required graduation credits and may also earn early college credits. Since its opening on the corner of US-31 and Port Sheldon in 1976, the Tech Center has helped prepare tens of thousands of area high school students for college and well-paying jobs in marketable careers.
"I've always enjoyed baking and tweaking recipes to make them my own," Justin says. "My instructors at Careerline Tech saw potential in me, and challenged me to try new things that would stretch my limits."
That challenge led Justin to enroll in Baker College where he earned an associate's degree in business with an emphasis on culinary arts, along with a Baking and Pastry Certiﬁcate. In 2006, he opened Grand Finale Desserts & Pastries, where his specialty is creating unique and delicious wedding cakes crafted from layers of chiffon cake and Italian butter cream.
Now teaching his own classes, Justin ﬁnds himself encouraging, challenging, and holding his students to high standards, much as his instructors did at Careerline Tech.
"I had good mentors at the Tech Center," Justin says. "I really credit my instructors for encouraging me to pursue my dreams and for reinforcing my passion to give back to the community."
Jill Landman, an instructor in the Culinary & Pastry Arts program, says along with the general curriculum, Tech Center instructors stress the importance of giving back to the community. Justin took that lesson to heart and frequently donates his time and baked goods to senior living centers, the United Way and other community organizations.
Today, as an entrepreneur and teacher, Justin Raha reﬂects on his time at Careerline Tech Center as one of the most rewarding experiences he has ever had.
"I am living out my passion and my dream," Justin says. "Careerline Tech Center gave me the knowledge and support I needed to succeed."