BRADENTON -- If you were around Bradenton City Hall this week, then you probably saw 15-year-old student intern Ethan Leuchter, working alongside Councilman Bemis Smith.
Ethan, a student at Saint Stephen's Episcopal School, chose to work in city government for a weeklong project his school calls the Interim Quest Program.
"Potentially I want to go into politics. I'm still exploring," said Ethan, 15, who has an interest in political science and was elected as the ninth grade student treasurer.
Smith was happy to show the ninth-grader the day-to-day operations of local government, even having Ethan sit next to him during this week's Council meeting.
"It's a way of teaching kids what goes on," he said.
Patrick Whelan, the school's social studies department chair, said after final exams are taken, students team up with companies, organizations and businesses they had an interest in learning more about. Thirty-four high students participated this year.
"This is a great opportunity that we offer students," said Whelan.
The goal is to stretch the students beyond the classroom. They will have to write a 500-word essay about their experience.
Since this time of year is uneventful for a councilman, Smith decided to have Ethan sit with each department head of the city and learn a little of what they do as well. Smith allowed Ethan to ride along with him to tend to constituents' concerns.
Ethan met with all departments including the fire, police, public works and code enforcement departments.
Ethan went on a ride-along with police and investigated a burglary; however, he most enjoyed working with the fire department.
"I was able to participate in training exercise on their ladder truck," he said.
His father, Josh Leuchter, was grateful that his son had a chance to have hands on experience and see a little bit of what his job would be if he chooses to go into politics or local government.
"The city of Bradenton is now personalized for Ethan," he said. "Everyone has showed him what's going on and not just letting him sit behind a computer."
Smith hopes to one day expand this weeklong experience to an annual event where students who have interests in politics or local government on any level could work with the different departments.
"If you just give students the incentive and the visibility to see what's going on; hopefully you'll create some enthusiasm," said Smith.
Ethan feels that it doesn't matter if a student has interest in a career in government or not, they all should know how things work.
"If they have a problem and they need to go to the city government, they can better manage that."
Janey Tate, City of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.