Baking and pastry school? Advice!
Are there any junior college's that offer culinary programs? Years ago, I went to a 2 year college that had an ACF accredited culinary program. Saved a ton on tuition. I only paid $13 a unit (I know it's gone up a lot since), but at the time comparing $520 (+ equipment & books) to $50,000 for tuition, kinda speaks for itself. Might be worth researching.
Another option is to find a job at a bakery or perhaps a hotel - somewhere that makes what they sell (as opposed to buying in frozen product to bake off or thaw and serve). Offer to be a dishwasher if you have to in order to get your foot in the door and you can advance from there. Even a part time position while you are attending a community college or vocational school program will be helpful.
I knew at 17 that I wanted to become a Pastry Chef. I worked my a** of trying to get there without formal training. I was promised several low level jobs would turn into better jobs that never did. At one point I was working 3 jobs just to eat and have a place to sleep. I took the advice of everyone I knew and didn't go to culinary school.
After 8 years of working crappy jobs for crappy pay I attended Scottsdale Culinary - now le cordon bleu scottsdale- and completed the baking and patiserrie coarse. Within 2 weeks of graduation I had a mid-level job as a pastry cook and had worked my way into a title by the end of 18 months. I happily pay my student loan payments every month because school did exactly what I needed it to.
That said...Several of my classmates went to school and hated the work when they graduated. Two of them who didn't graduate have been very sucessful without their diplomas.
Find someone in your area to talk to about school vs work training. Our junior college here is a joke. The art institute here turns out consistent cooks but no bakers that are worth the pay. In the long run school on your resume has to be the right training for the geographical area you hope to work in. If you can find someone to apprentice with and you feel good about it - get it in writing. Don't take anybody on their word alone.