Columbia Southern University (CSU) has awarded its "Hero Behind the Hero" scholarship, which honors the spouses and children of active-duty public safety personnel (firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMTs and dispatchers), as well as military men and women.

Holly Stanley, a credit union branch manager in Alabaster, Ala., was awarded an online scholarship based on her entry in the scholarship essay contest.

Stanley is married to Officer Andrew Stanley of the Alabaster Police Department. She said she was excited to win the scholarship, which covers tuition for up to 24 months for one specific degree program.

Winning the scholarship was like having "a great weight lifted off of my shoulders," she said. "I have wanted to go back to school for a long time, but I have dreaded the time and expense. My husband convinced me that neither mattered as long as I accomplished my goals. This will help me do just that and not stress about the cost."

Stanley is pursuing a bachelors degree in business administration and in her essay wrote, "I want to get my degree so that I can provide for my family the same way my husband has and show him that his support along the way was well-founded. I want to show my daughter that a woman can run a company; she can go to college and make it pay huge dividends."

CSU is an online university that offers associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in various fields including criminal justice, fire science, occupational safety and health, and business administration.

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