Columbia Southern University has awarded an Alabama sheriff's deputy the CSU/Alabama Peace Officers Association (APOA) scholarship.

Deputy Jason Hilyer of the Tallapoosa County Sheriff's Department won the scholarship.

"Although I like to think positively about all situations, I had no expectations to win at all," says Hilyer, a criminal investigator who has been with the agency for more than seven years.

Deputy Hilyer was awarded a two-year online scholarship based on his entry in an essay contest sponsored by CSU and APOA, an organization with more 4,000 members.

CSU offers online degree programs in subject areas such as business administration, occupational safety and health, fire science and human resource management. Deputy Hilyer plans to use the scholarship to continue his pursuit of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration.

Deputy Hilyer's passion for his job "was evident in his essay and contributed to his selection," according to a release from the university.

"I get up every morning excited at the possibility of helping someone and making their bad situation into something better. Law enforcement is not just about arresting someone; it's making a difference in their lives and leaving the people I come in contact with, in a better position than before," he wrote in the essay.

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