Make sure the heads are good for roller cams. You might be looked at different springs, you'll need a pushrod length checker, and will you be buying aftermarket rockers?
Once you dip your toe into that pool, it's really hard not to dive in. At that point why not stroke it?
The 96 302 is roller (that's what I put in my 95EB you can see the engine on my build thread) but the heads aren't really any better than what you have.
If the Explorer engine is a good runner, you could do a simple rebuild, add a cam, and with the GT40 heads you should have no problem getting the power you want without dropping a ton of money and time. Get some plastigauge, get a Ford Rebuild book and a factory shop manual and let the kid build it. I can tell you from experience as a teenager who built a 327 for my first car (67 Chevelle) there was nothing like that feeling firing that thing up knowing I built it.
Of course the 327 became the original 396 built, then a Marine block 502 that sucked up my money faster than it sucked up leaded high octane.
Haha! I hear you ctandc! He is going to help me build it and I have an email to the salvage yard that has the Explorer to verify the heads are GT40s and not GT40Ps. If it does have the GT40 heads, I'll get that engine. Those heads can be sent with roller cam springs. I imagine I will probably have to get aftermarket rockers of some kinds. I'm trying my best to keep the spend down on the engine, since he doesn't need a whole lot of power for his first car. Besides, if I was going to stroke a 302, I might as well get a 351.