The Toppenish Police Department is helping to turn kids away from gangs and turn toward law enforcement.

Officer Juan Ceja is the advisor of the Toppenish Police Department Explorer program. The program is designed to get kids ready for a career in law enforcement.

But he says not all the kids in the program want to be future police officers. He says some kids just want to get on the right track to improve their lives.

“We think it’s great that some kids want to be future police officers. But some kids just want a better life and if they learn some life skills in the program then we’ve done our job.”

The Toppenish Explorer program is different than other programs in that it allows all high school age kids to be involved no matter what has happened in the past.

The officers involved are all voluntary and the program is funded by donations and a recent state grant given to community programs that help steer kids away from gangs.

The Explorer program in Toppenish is part of the ongoing effort by the Yakima Gang Commission to help put a stop to gang problems in the Valley.