Samia Chatman

Samia Chatman

Youth Internship Program

Samia Chatman wasn’t familiar with archeology going into her recent internship at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute (OI) but six weeks later, the rising high school senior was presenting her findings on a long-unclassified collection of rocks, bones, shells, and other specimens to Institute leaders. 

Chatman was one of 27 high school interns placed in 18 units across campus as part of the second summer of the UChicago Youth Internship Program (YIP), a paid employment opportunity for local Chicago Public Schools and charter school students facilitated by the Office of Civic Engagement. In addition to having a meaningful work experience, YIP interns also participate in weekly professional development workshops and are paired with undergraduate mentors who can answer college and career questions and provide additional guidance.

Chatman, who lives in Washington Park and attends Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy, was one of two YIP interns assigned to her department. The materials the two were tasked with combing through, identifying, and cataloguing had been donated to the OI collection and had largely sat in tucked-away storerooms for years. The interns’ work, supervisor Tasha Vorderstrasse says, was similar to responsibilities they might come across as upper-level undergraduate or graduate students.

“What’s really been valuable to me is to see how we all have sort of helped each other,” Vorderstrasse, University and Continuing Education program coordinator at OI, says. “Even if this is not a world they choose to go into, they can translate the skills that they learn—doing spreadsheets, or summaries, learning how to do research, how you read a book and extract the information out of it. It’s something they can use. But it’s really been beneficial to us, too, because this has been a collection that’s just been sitting around and nobody’s been that interested in it, and now people are. And this means we can use it in programming, or if anyone is ever interested in doing scholarly research on it. This has all been made possible by what [the interns] have been able to do.”

Samia Chatman


After high school, Chatman hopes to study creative writing or screenwriting at a nearby college or university. In the meantime, she says the college readiness and career development elements of the internship, such as college application and communication etiquette workshops, helped her polish her resume and think about her next steps differently.

“There are a lot of colleges and types of colleges as well, so the program really put into perspective what type of college do I want to go to? What’s going to help me the most with what I’m aiming for?” she said.

Coming to UChicago’s campus every day when she hadn’t previously spent much time there was another program perk, Chatman says, as was the chance to learn about so many new topics. Chatman and her fellow interns learned about potential career paths, for instance, through a hands-on hospitality presentation in partnership with Chartwells Higher Education and UChicago Dining, a Fermilab field trip, and other programming.

“You learned new skills and then you learned something else, it was a constant loop of learning,” she said.





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