Belong, believe, become

Learn more about Ferris' Ready For Life program

For two years, the Ready For Life program has been providing young adults with cognitive learning and social disabilities opportunities to develop skills to help them reach their personal goals.

RFL has a wide variety of programs for different target audiences, so everyone has a place where they can thrive. Because of their partnerships with Hope College, Calvin University and Ferris State, RFL provides post-secondary education experiences for college-aged individuals diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.

Lead Instructor Jay Kalis started working for RFL in July, leading into is his first year at school. Although Kalis had COVID-19 a week after he started, he was still determined to learn the information needed for the job.

“The week after I started, I got COVID-19, but, thankfully, Ready For Life had me come on and in plenty of time to get as much ready and organized for the school year as I could,” Kalis said. “And so I was reading through all that information, getting to know my students on paper… before they moved in.”

Toni Falk, the director of RFL, found RFL by chance when searching on Indeed. When applying, she found that the link on the website was broken, but because of her interest in the job, she took an extra step to apply.

“So I called and had second round interviews scheduled before I could sign the teaching contract…, and I haven’t looked back since,” Falk said. “To know that our students have a place of opportunities at the college level is exciting. I’m happy to say that I don’t [see] myself seeking any other job before retirement.”

The students in the program benefit from the experience of being on campus because it gives them an authentic college experience.

The students have jobs based on their skills and preferences. The shyer students who prefer to be in quiet places have office jobs, while the more energetic, extroverted students work in places that require interacting with others, like the quad or the athletic department.

Students who are not in the program also benefit from RFL by serving as peer partners. A peer partner is a student at Ferris who helps make students in the RFL program feel welcome and included by helping them understand their class work, attending sporting events with them and providing community living support.

RFL’s motto is belong, believe and become. They don’t want anyone to feel out of place. Instead, they want to ensure others feel comfortable and safe, on and off campus.

“The first part of belonging [is] somebody has to invite you to their group, right?” Kalis said. “So we have a spot to sit for lunch at the cafeteria, or when a peer partner or regular student sees a Ready For Life student in their class, they step forward and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll be your partner.’”

RFL is full of opportunities for students to learn from those with different life experiences. If you are interested in volunteering for RFL or becoming a member, email