Open thank you letter from John Shoffner

Published 2:01 pm Monday, July 31, 2023


My dream began with cardboard spaceships and the space race in the 1960s. And so, with my mother’s blessing, this is what set me on my path in pursuit of all things beyond. For me, that fire burned hot each day of my life and took me to many places, finally including space itself.

I am so very proud of my Middlesboro upbringing. From the schools I learned in, the playgrounds I skinned my knees on, the newspaper route down these very streets and the many friends and families that were the key parts of my learning days as a student and later in business. Here in Middlesboro is where it all began for me. Small towns are places for big dreams. I know this because I lived it.

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Last month you presented me with the Key to the City, Middlesboro’s first. I am so deeply honored by this. To say that I am grateful and humbled would be an understatement, and it would never have been possible without the many of you who were a part of my life here. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this wonderful community was that village.

With my first spaceflight now behind me and as great an adventure as that was, I am most excited for what is to come in Middlesboro: the growth of a STEM-certified school system and the adoption of new ways to view education and inspire our students. This can bring the next big dream for all of us.

I believe that in each student there is a passion, a dream. That thing that makes them smile and at burns in each of them. It is our job, as teachers, parents and mentors to recognize this and to support them. Our schools are capable of supporting these dreams and sending our students out into the world to do good things.

My mother taught me to believe in myself and to seek out what most interested me, to do good work where I could, but to always be true to that voice which spoke to show me my path. I have since well learned, that for every limiting belief we may hold and which tries to tell us we are not cut out for something, there is an educator, a parent, a coach, a program or way to prove to the world, and most importantly ourselves, what is possible for us. We need only to trust and believe.

From the bottom of my heart to the edge of the atmosphere, thank you for helping this Middlesboro boy live his dream and become an astronaut. I hope in some small way, I am able to repay this grand gift and the many great rewards of growing up in this great city.