She Put a Ring on it

When Katy Walding could not get a class ring, she created her own.

Class rings are a U.S. tradition. The United States Military Academy issued the first set in 1835. The 28-year-old Alexandria native with Down syndrome loves her high school class ring. She wears it every day. Her father Mike Walding says it was important to her to get one after completing the Bridge to Independence program in May 2019.


“Like the pirogue races and Crawfish Day, the Nicholls ring is a tradition that links past, present and future Colonels.” – Katherine Mabile


The Bridge program helps students who have intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. Students in the certificate program, like Katy, develop social and workforce skills. The goal is that each student can live by themselves after
they leave.

But to be eligible to receive a Nicholls State University class ring, you need to earn a degree. Students who complete the Bridge program receive certificates.

Disappointment turned to inspiration. Alumni Affairs Director Katherine Mabile reached out after the incident. Together, they designed a new ring.
“After speaking to Balfour, I learned it was possible to add another ring to the Nicholls collection,” says Mabile. “I met with Katy and her father who were interested in the ring collection. When asked why they couldn’t order a ring, I explained that no one had ever asked about a certification ring. That meant we had to create one.”

Added Mike, “I was ecstatic because that meant that Katy could get one.”

The Alexandria natives spent almost an hour considering ring options when they met with Mabile the week of graduation.

“Katy had definite ideas about the rings she liked,” Mike says. “We went through the possibilities she would like. She made all the decisions.”

Mike commended Mabile for her help with facilitating the new ring.

“I am so glad that we were able to create a certificate ring for our certificate students at Nicholls,” says Mabile. “Like the pirogue races and Crawfish Day, the Nicholls ring is a tradition that links past, present and future Colonels.”

As for the ring, it isn’t much different from the standard Nicholls’ graduation rings. It’s almost the same design, except this ring has the words, “Bridge to Independence” around the stone.

“Katy will be very proud of it and wear it every day,” says Walding. “I’m thankful she got the opportunity to go to college and finish and can show it off by wearing the ring.”

Katy, now 31, has moved to San Angelo, Texas. She works in the English as a Second Language program at Glenmore Elementary.

She says she enjoyed her time in the Bridge program because she got to spend time with her friends. Now, her friends and the other students in the certificate program will be able to buy a class ring.

All because she dared to fight for their inclusion in a Nicholls tradition. – Chakyra Butler