Laying the Foundation for Student Success

February 9, 2024

At FareStart, all students are welcomed and respected for their unique strengths, for their potential to re-imagine their future, no matter what obstacles they’ve faced in the past.

Because every student’s journey to FareStart is different, we meet them wherever they are and line up support services tailored to their specific needs. For some it’s food, clothes, and housing. For others it’s transportation, recovery support, counseling, or all of the above.

“In looking at the whole person, it’s really important to understand all the other pillars and foundational things that they need to keep their lives stable, so that once they find employment, they can stay employed,” says Thomas Haupt (he/him), FareStart Student Support Manager.

In their first conversations with our case management team, “the student will identify some barriers or challenges they might be immediately facing or wanting to identify to work on or overcome,” says Marco Walker-Lawrence (he/him), a FareStart Case Manager. 

Food—The first item on Marco’s to-do list is to check if a newly enrolled student is eligible for Basic Food Assistance. “That’s number one,” he says, “so they don’t have to spend any of their stipend to food.” He also helps students connect with local food banks. And during the in-person phase of training, students in our Food Pathways Program have one meal they can count on every day: the delicious, well-balanced lunch they help prepare alongside their instructors.

Housing—Many students come to FareStart as they’re coming out of homelessness, incarceration, or shelters for survivors of domestic abuse. The process of applying for housing can be challenging, so Marco walks them through it, step by step. 

FareStart helps students find housing in partnership with Bellwether Housing, Catholic Community Services, Housing Connector, Low Income Housing Institute, United Way King of County, Solid Ground, among other local nonprofits and housing partners. 

Once students are set up with housing, FareStart helps with rent as needed while they’re in training. That helps them build up savings so they can make ends meet after they graduate. As they move into their own places, students often receive donated beds, sofas, tables, and other items from NW Furniture Bank

Clothing—FareStart keeps a large closet stocked with blankets, raincoats, winter jackets, underwear, socks, interview attire, other clothes and hygiene supplies for students. Students also receive vouchers to shop on their own at Goodwill.

Health Care—We help students connect with primary care and mental health providers through partnerships with Country Doctor Community Health Centers, Neighborcare Health, Seattle Indian Health Board, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, and others. “One of (students’) big asks is getting connected with mental health (counseling),” Marco says. “They’ll say, ‘I have Apple Health. I don’t have any money. How do I go see the doctor—for my mental health?”

Recovery—Some students come to FareStart through referrals from partners where they’re receiving drug and alcohol treatment, such as such as Catholic Community Services, Evergreen Treatment Services, Recovery Café, Pioneer Human Services, Therapeutic Heath Services, and others. Other students come to FareStart seeking help taking their first steps toward recovery. Whatever support they need to get or stay sober, our case mangers lean in and help.

Legal Aid—When students need help dealing with a legal issue, such as regaining custody of their children or challenging an eviction, we connect them with partners that include Columbia Legal Services, the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project, Northwest Justice Project, and others.

Family Services—Community partners like Alternative Solutions, Atlantic Street Center, and Childhaven (which recently merged with Children’s Home Society of Washington to become Akin) support FareStart students working to improve their parenting skills.

Transportation—FareStart provides free bus and train passes to all students, so they can get to class, job interviews, appointments, anywhere they need to go during training. 

As the first case manager that most students work with at FareStart, Marco sees the huge strides students make from their first days in the program through graduation and beyond. One recent Food Pathways graduate, an Army veteran named Jody (he/him), seemed fraught with self-doubt in the beginning.

“What we worked on together was seeing that we’re all here as a community,” Marco recalls. “I encouraged Jody to see his classmates as a community rather than competition … and he was able to make some really powerful and strong connections with some of his classmates and some enduring relationships that continue to this day.”

Jody already had housing when he came to FareStart, so Marco helped him look into his eligibility for benefits as a veteran. Marco also advocated for Jody to get set up with a dedicated Veterans Affairs (VA) case manager.

“The VA is such a large entity, they have resources and places that our students aren’t always able to access,” Marco says. 

Jody recently learned that he not only qualifies for disability income (a back injury severely limits his mobility) but also retirement benefits. All told, including several months of back pay, it’s enough to pay his rent for a full year.

Still eager and able to work part-time, Jody recently reconnected with Marco, who helped him update his resume and narrow down a long list of job openings to positions that felt like a good fit for him—some in food service, others in warehousing.

“I’m just so thankful for all of FareStart—for the training, the encouragement, everything they do,” Jody says. “They go above and beyond.”


We're currently enrolling new cohorts of students in job training programs. Learn more.