CANTON - Area teenagers worked hand-in-hand with the Madison County Sheriff's Department this summer as part of the Explorer program. A graduation ceremony was held last week.

The Explorers are a Boy Scouts program in which local teens between the ages of 14 to 18 who have an interest in law enforcement have a chance to learn about the profession and gain hands-on experience with actual law enforcement officers.

Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said that educating young teens and adults on law enforcement was a big part of his campaign.

He saw restoring the Explorer program as a good opportunity to reach out to young people.

"When I was campaigning it was a big part of my platform. I wanted to reach out to the youth of Madison," Tucker said.

The program lasts for the month of June. The recruits report every morning during the week at 7 a.m. and take classes, learn to shoot, do physical exercise and practice marching and formations for drills and ceremonies.

Deputy Radford Shearill, the coordinator for the program, said that the training is very similar to the how they train recruits at the academy though it is not as severe.

"Sheriff Tucker created the program because he loves kids. I know it was a big part of his platform. We want to give them a taste of what the Academy is like. It's hard work," Shearill said.

Recruits can remain in the program until they are 21 or go on to become police officers or deputies themselves.

After graduation the Explorers received a badge and uniform and can help the sheriff's department with security details at sporting events and traffic checkpoints before 9 p.m., usually on holidays. T

he Explorers also get to march in parades with the sheriff's department.

Tucker said the goal is to teach young adults a marketable skill and get them involved in the community.

"The goal is to educate our youth on law enforcement, recruitment is a bonus," Tucker said, "We hope that these kids will go to have a successful career as deputy or hopefully a sheriff one day."

Montreal Thompson, 16, was elected class leader by his Explorer class in addition to winning two awards, one for physical training and esteemed Adam Weisenberger Award, which is voted on by the instructors for the most well-rounded participant in the program.

"I had fun. It was hard, but it was fun," Thompson said.

Thompson said he plans to enroll in the Academy after high school so that he can work while he pursues a degree in Criminal Justice.

To date, 17 Madison County youth have graduated from the program under Tucker's first term as sheriff.