When Mike DeBock gets home each day, he hangs up his keys on a decades-old woodwork project he did one summer at 4-H Camp Cloverleaf. It’s a daily reminder of how 4-H still impacts him today.
As a kid, Mike struggled with a speech impediment. He was self-conscious when speaking, especially to a crowd. But everything changed when he started practicing his public speaking skills through 4-H.
“4-H gave me my voice,” he says. “It gave me the confidence to deliver my message.”
Now the CEO of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, he uses that confidence and communication skills each day.
Mike grew up on 20 acres in rural Charlotte County. Though he grew up in an agricultural area, Mike was more interested in giving speeches than showing animals at the county fair. An active member of his county and district 4-H councils, he eventually became State 4-H Council President. “I was all in when it came to 4-H,” he says.
After high school, Mike attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He became a U.S. Army officer and flew Apache helicopters during missions in Kosovo and Iraq. Returning to civilian life, Mike entered the corporate world, working for Florida Power and Light, and NextEra Energy.
No matter where he was in the world or in his career, Mike could always count on the relationships he made in 4-H. “I’m still friends with people I met in 4-H. My 4-H mentor, Professor John Rutledge, is still a resource for me today. I’ll always be thankful to have had 4-H in my life,” he says.