In response to COVID-19 and the call from community partners in Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida’s Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships moved quickly to facilitate collaborations for online mentoring and tutoring. By utilizing resources at the University and community organizations’ close ties to families in Hillsborough County, a new pathway to prevent K-12 learning loss during COVID-19 emerged.

USF’s College of Education recognized the urgency for practicum students and student tutor employees to continue learning and working during the pandemic. College of Education (COEDU) students were connected with local community organizations to host online tutoring and mentoring sessions with K-12 youth. The central mission of the program was to prevent K-12 learning loss during COVID-19 in Tampa Bay while COEDU students continued their education and employment in the spring/summer semesters. Key stakeholders across the University also provided support to transition from in-person to online K-12 student support.

These efforts sought to build the foundation for an online mentoring and tutoring model for the COEDU, as well other departments and colleges at the University, and additional community partners in Tampa Bay. Actions steps, lessons learned engaging stakeholders, and discussion of implications to strengthen community engagement for a post-COVID-19 world will be discussed.


  • Dustin Krein, M.Ed., is a Program Planner in the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships (OCEP) at the University of South Florida. His work in OCEP contributes to stronger ties with Tampa Bay community organizations and has been recognized as such. In April 2019, Dustin received the Community Hall of Fame Award from The Skills Center, a nonprofit in Tampa’s Uptown committed to youth development. Mr. Krein serves in a key role facilitating partnerships with organizations, serves as liaison with the College of Education, oversees the office’s Community-Based Federal Work-Study program and serves on multiple community boards as a representative of the University. Additionally, he is a doctoral student at USF, pursuing an Ed.D. in Program Development with an emphasis in Educational Innovation to strengthen and advance his knowledge and expertise for student success in higher education. Dustin is currently investigating the relationship between male student success and community-based practices for his dissertation.
  • Laura Sabella serves as the Director of Field and Clinical Education since 2019. She has served as a visiting instructor and as the Coordinator for Secondary Clinical Experiences in the College of Education since 2016. An educator with more than 25 years of experience, Dr. Sabella’s research examines the role of new and pre-service teachers as they support adolescents on the autism spectrum in the English Language Arts classroom. Her research interests also include understanding how teacher candidates negotiate the transition from student to secondary content teacher, the intersection of student exceptionality and final internships, the role of the university supervisor in the field, and partnerships in secondary schools. She is currently working on a project to understand the importance of teacher candidates serving underserved children through tutoring.