Laurinburg Institute to serve as site for tech

By: By Katelin Gandee - Staff reporter
Katelin Gandee | Laurinburg Exchange Headmaster Frank “Bishop” McDuffie and Marcus X on the campus of the Laurinburg Institute.

LAURINBURG — The Laurinburg Institute, known for its rich history as a prep school, see its future as a hub for technology training and certification.

The historic school is now offering STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — classes. The Institute has also partnered with FOCUS Unmanned Aerial System to offer drone certification.

The STEM program started its trial run a couple of months ago through Saturday classes and there are plans to turn the effort into a summer camp and an after-school program.

According to Denise Cozart, a program director, the Institute’s STEM program is different from other efforts because the program is based on the state’s common core curriculum.

“The students can take real-life STEM application and apply it to their school,” Cozart said. “One thing we want to do is be an asset to the public school system and not create more barriers.”

She added that program is designed to be a fun learning experience. Some of the activities include video game development, 3D modeling, drone classes and other activities that students can apply in real life.

“We want to make the students excited about learning,” said Frank “Bishop” McDuffie, the school’s headmaster. “Through these programs, we want to meet the learners where they are.”

McDuffie said participants may go on to find a cure for cancer.

“You never know what inspiring a child can do,” McDuffie said. “You look at our prison system and you have bright people in there who were never inspired by education. Just think what they could have done if they were given these opportunities.”

The foray into STEM came as a consequence of a meeting of M8 or Magnificent Eight, a group dedicated to improving educational opportunities for young people.

The group, which has made a donation to help students attend the STEM program, said too often Scotland and the surrounding counties see their most talented students leave the area.

Marcus X, M8 president and an instructor with the HVAC program at Richmond Community College, hopes that the program at the Laurinburg Institute will help end the “brain and talent drain.”

“The way we impact the county is by educating children,” Marcus X said. “When they have the tools and the skills to leave a school and become successful then they do positive and real things for the environment that they came from if they stay in that environment. We want to stop the brain and talent drain from the people that would receive the education but we have to make this attractive for them to say and we have to give them jobs.”


The Institute held a recent open house for the fledgling drone program in partnership with FOCUS Unmanned Aerial System, based in New Jersey.

Focus was to use the Institute as one of its operating grounds to help certify people.

Members of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office participated in a worship to learn the importance of drones and how they can help first responders.

McDuffie said drones can be used to help recovery efforts as well as monitor areas around schools.

“It is such a great technology that can provide so many services,” McDuffie said. “We want to be in on the ground floor.”

The program will eventually be offered to the public as well as being a part of the Institute’s STEM program, however, there are no exact dates on when it will be available.

For information about the programs or to sign up call the Laurinburg Institute at 910-276-0684 or 910-682-7188.

Katelin Gandee | Laurinburg Exchange Headmaster Frank “Bishop” McDuffie and Marcus X on the campus of the Laurinburg Institute. Gandee | Laurinburg Exchange Headmaster Frank “Bishop” McDuffie and Marcus X on the campus of the Laurinburg Institute.

By Katelin Gandee

Staff reporter

Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171

Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171