Welcoming Natalya Dean, Program Director

January 26, 2022

Mission: Ignite would like to introduce our newest Director to our M:I Team! Natalya brings digital literacy and technology programs to life at Mission: Ignite providing resources both online and in-classroom to our Western New York area. Natalya Dean comes to us from BestSelf Behavioral Health and has been with us for about eight months learning and onboarding key staff and partners. Natalya’s experience is valued with her expertise in Digital Literacy and Equality and Inclusion training.

We value digital literacy education as an essential pillar of achieving digital equity as an organization. Natalya leads our education team and has developed our Tech 360 program: a digital literacy training course developed in collaboration with Grow with Google and Northstar Digital. From these tools, Natalya has developed a comprehensive and practical learning pathway. The program's design brings people from all backgrounds to a place of digital literacy that equips them for success in their academic and work careers.

Natalya has already brought Tech 360 to 17 students at Houghton College's East Side of Buffalo location, where she trained students in digital skills and internet navigation.  

Notably, two retirement-aged students were apprehensive about learning digital skills, feeling that their age disadvantaged them with new technology. Ironically, these two blossomed into star pupils. Going into the course, Natalya was concerned that the younger students wouldn't have much to learn but was proved otherwise. "Even these younger people who are always on their phone," she shared, "still had plenty to learn. Mostly more advanced professional skills."  

Their final project used Google platforms to create cover letters, resumes, and finally e-portfolios, skills that will undoubtedly help them in their futures. 90% of the participants rated the course as being excellent. One student commented: "Ms. Dean was very helpful to the not-so-savvy students and had no problems with giving explanations over if needed and working with us one on one. Computers change a lot, and I'm happy to have been in this basic course to bring me up to reasonable speed." Three young women commented to Natalya that it was refreshing and inspiring to see an ambitious woman of color leading the classroom and gave them a securing sense of representation.  

After seeing this success and the potential for the Tech 360 model to reach more people, we're excited to have it as a flagship program this year. As we advance, we will provide free desktop computers to those who complete our Tech 360 program at host locations—getting tools in the hands of those learning these essential skills. We're currently seeking host organizations to bring digital literacy education to their patrons.

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