Back to his roots: Alumnus guides students using Eastfield experience



Student success coach Erbin Ayala sits and talks with Christopher Tellez in the Hive on Aug. 1. Ayala uses his experience as an Eastfield alumnus to coach students.


Inside his small office in C-120H, success coach Erbin Ayala helps about eight to 12 students daily to succeed in their academic journeys.

Seventeen years ago Ayala sat in Eastfield classrooms as a student, so he understands what students need to thrive in the college environment.

However, it was at skate camp where Ayala was first inspired to consider pursuing education.

“That experience was really the lynchpin for me in education,” Ayala said. “If it wasn’t for skateboarding, I wouldn’t be in the position that I have now.”

Erbin Ayala skateboards at Lakeland Hills Park in Dallas, TX on August 4. (RORY MOORE/THE ET CETERA)

Growing up, Ayala and his sister helped their dad with his ice cream business in San Fernando Valley, California. He spent his days at the park helping unload the cargo, stocking and selling the product. But at age 11, he found a sport that changed him: skateboarding. He was consumed by it.

“I really believe that skateboarding changes lives. It changed mine,” Ayala said. “I want to do it until I can’t.”

After graduating from UNT in 2008, a friend referred him to a position at a skate park in Denton.“

He knew I was looking for a job and he just thought ‘oh, you skateboard,’” Ayala said. “I did that for three years, three seasons basically.”

In 2011, Ayala moved to Beijing, China, to teach English.

“[Summer camp] made me open to teach English overseas because I figured out that I was pretty good at working with youth,” Ayala said.

He taught at a private kindergarten where he worked with 4-year-olds.

“I learned a lot of life lessons, learned independence….The China experience was unique, to say the least. I learned a little bit of Mandarin and about the culture. I still draw from that experience.”

After coming back from China he started working at a nonprofit, Education is Freedom. He traveled to area high schools, providing students with information about college, and that is what set him up for his current role as a success coach.

Like other students at Eastfield, Ayala had an adviser who encouraged him to enroll in his first music class.

“My introduction to music was here,” Ayala said. “I had no experience in music growing up.”

Music faculty member Eddie Healy, who was an adjunct instructor at the time, inspired Ayala to play the guitar.

“He was fun to work with just because he was inquisitive and enjoyed the material and he was friendly,” Healy said. “He liked talking to people.”


Healy is also a former Eastfield student.

“It’s a special thing, for those of us who both attended school at Eastfield, and then come back and work at Eastfield. It feels like kind of a homecoming and a very special homecoming,” Healy said. “And Erbin and I’ve talked about that. We share that feeling, that sentiment that it’s a special place that gave us our start, that inspired us to develop an interest in academia and continuing to remain involved in academia.”

Healy often invited Ayala to continue playing with the Eastfield guitar ensemble.

“Right up until the pandemic hit, he was actually performing with our Eastfield guitar ensemble,” Healy said. “We would routinely invite him to perform with us not just on campus at Eastfield but a lot of other places. He’s performed at a few different places around Dallas with us.”

Healy said he encourages students who need help to contact Ayala.

“Anytime they can seek help from Erbin, they should absolutely do so because he’s so open to helping students,” Healy said. “He’s a great person to talk about the community college experience with and especially, he’s the ideal person to talk to about the transition between the community college student and taking the next steps, either in academia or into the professional realm.”

Ayala’s goal as a success coach is to be an agent of change, making difference and giving back.

“Eastfield is home for me,” Ayala said. “I had a good experience at Eastfield, so being able to make a difference in a student, even one student [motivates me.]”

Education major Fernando Esparza found Ayala by luck. He was looking at the Navigate app because he had just received an email about getting ready for graduation and found out he needed to reach out to a success coach.

“I honestly chose him randomly,” Esparza said. “But that was a really great choice.”


The second time they spoke, it surprised Esparza.

“He actually reached out to me to see how I was doing,” Esparza said. “No other success coach has ever done that with me. He took his time to see if I chose the right classes and that was really helpful. I can tell that he loves helping people,” he said.

Now 37, Ayala still practices skateboarding six to seven days a week and plays guitar every day.

“I would encourage any student to get involved outside the classroom because it helps you develop as a person, and not just be what I call a parking lot student, where you go to class, you leave, and that’s it,” he said. “Not having that experience outside the classroom, you may lose sight of what you’re there for.”