TUCKED away in a musty box of mementos in my house is a lengthy document. It was written by my father, who had a lawyer friend make it look official.
This took place more than 25 years ago, a few months after the birth of my dad's first grandchild, my daughter.
Dad handed me the document and solemnly instructed me to have it filed at the courthouse.
He also told me I now was the owner of a small annuity. The beneficiary was to be the tiny new member of the family, and the money was intended for her college education.
The document spelled out my father's strong feelings about what the money could and could not be spent for. It was to go for her work toward a degree at an accredited institution of higher learning, and nothing else. Not for a car, not for sorority dues, none of that.
My parents were not wealthy, and the small sum was invested conservatively so it grew slowly. However, by the time his grandchild was ready to enter college, it could have covered nearly two years of tuition, room and board.
As it turned out, she received a couple of scholarships and also worked part-time. My husband and I were able to pay the rest of her undergraduate costs without dipping into the annuity.
Four years later, when she had received a bachelor's degree, the initial sum placed in the annuity had grown five-fold. She finally tapped it and slowly spent it over the next two years in graduate school.
My dad had died a few years after her birth, but his hope for his granddaughter's education had been realized.
That belief in the importance of education goes back even further in my family.
Of my four grandparents, only one managed to go to college. The other three didn't even make it to high school. Family finances wouldn't permit it.
But all four were determined to see their own children educated, and they succeeded. Those children in turn instilled the importance of education in their own offspring, my generation.
These days there are more options for parents and grandparents to create college funds, and many do so. Many families also are like mine in making it clear that pursuit of an education is a given, not an option.
However, that ethic is far from universal. Concern about low graduation rates in West Virginia high schools caused the Legislature this past session to raise the dropout age from 16 to 17.