Dr. Kathleen Jager had no idea the kind of impact she’d have on Darin Pearce’s life when she first met him. At the time, she was working with Darin’s older brother, Brendon through the Eaton County Youth Facility’s residential treatment program.

Tragedy struck the Pearce family shortly after that introduction when Brendon was killed in a car accident in March of 2015. It was around this time when life got a lot more complicated for Darin, and his choices landed him in the same place as Brendon, the Eaton County Youth Facility.

“It was hard to see him withdrawing and having a hard time,” Jager said.

What Jager, a counselor at the facility, learned about Darin early on, though, was that he was a good kid, capable of turning his life around. Her intuition was right, and on Wednesday, Dec. 6, Jager and Bill Kennedy of the Eaton County Youth Facility presented Darin with the Youth Achievement Award during the 72nd Annual Children’s Christmas Luncheon.

“It means a lot to me to be able to present this award to him,” Jager said. “He’s been in community based treatment, detention, Link, juvenile drug treatment court, and he’s done great. Everybody who meets him loves him. He’s been through a lot of tough times and has really come out the other side. It’s been really inspiring to see.”

Jager said Darin taught her that no matter how far you fall, you just get back up.

“One of the amazing things about doing what we all do, is to see success stories,” Judge Thomas Byerly said. “Every once in a while we get a great story, in fact, we get great stories all of the time. Darin is one of our great success stories and I know that he’s doing very well.”

Kennedy said the staff working with at risk youth in Eaton County work together as a team to make positive impacts on lives. He said Darin deserves all of the credit for turning his life around.

“While we recognize the team effort and the many individuals involved in the rehabilitation of court youth, and in this case we specifically credit Lynn Pearce, Darin’s mother, Dr. Jager, Darin’s therapist of several years, but in the end we give credit to the juvenile, and rightfully so. In this case it was Darin’s maturation, his decision making, his efforts at home and school, at work and in the community that led to the successful resolution of his case. And, just as he was held responsible for the behavior that led to and extended his court involvement, so does he deserve the credit for addressing and resolving those issues.”