NEWTON, Kan. -- At age 18, college student Austin Sontag already has a job in the career field he's pursuing.
He's working at the Harvey County Detention Center.
"I basically do anything from book inmates to watching them up in housing (population)," Sontag said.
He says the opportunity to work at the detention center has been made possible by the experience he gained while in a program he joined at age 14.
"Without the Explorer Program, I probably wouldn't be where I am today," Sontag said.
The Kurt Ford Explorer Program prepares young people, ages 14-20, for careers in law enforcement. The program was created in honor of Harvey County Sheriff's Deputy Kurt Ford who died in the line of duty in 2005.
Young people receive training in everything from handcuffing techniques to defensive tactics. There are also internships and scholarships available.
The program is funded entirely by community donations.
"We've had a lot of explorers go on to have careers in law enforcement. So, it works," adviser Melissa Flavin said.
But the program is now faced with aging equipment that has made it's annual holiday wreath sale fundraiser more important than ever.
"This year is extremely important because we do have a fingerprint machine that we use for child identification and it is starting to go out on us," Flavin said. "It has not worked the past two times we have tried to use it."
The machine is used by the Explorers to provide a free service to the community. It allows them to give parents a fingerprint card with all the information law enforcement would need if their child was to go missing.
The are other tools program advisers would like to buy and other experiences they'd like to be able to provide for the students.
So, program leaders are calling on the community for a little extra support during this year's wreath sale.
The wreaths are available online and will be delivered in the first week of December. They can be shipped almost everywhere in the United States.
They are fresh and come in all different styles with different colored bows and trimmings. They also include a hanger.
The deadline to place in order is October 31.
"A wreath is a great way to decorate and it smells so good," Flavin said. "They've been known to last clear until March with no maintenance."
Program advisers say the cost is relatively low for you'll get and for what you'll give to young people like Austin Sontag.
"It helps the future of law enforcement in our area," Flavin said.
"My ultimate goal is to be a road deputy," Sontag said. "I don't think I'd be as far along as I am now."
To view the wreaths available and to place an order, please Click here
If you have any questions, please contact Melissa Flavin at the Harvey County Sheriff's Office by dialing (316) 284-6960.