Apply Now! ICS Merl Code Early Educators Fellowship

Applications are now open for this exciting Fellowship opportunity. Send application materials to by June 28th at 5pm ET to be considered.

It is our pleasure to announce that the Institute for Child Success is launching the ICS Merl Code Early Educators Fellowship to honor ICS Board Member Merl F. Code. This Fellowship highlights the importance of building and maintaining a robust pipeline of early career educators dedicated to the field of early childhood and improving child and family outcomes. We are excited about the impact on an area both central to the ICS mission and near and dear to Merl’s heart.

The Honorable Merl F. Code

Merl F. Code is Of Counsel in the Greenville law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak, & Stewart, P.C. He is a municipal court judge in Greenville and the owner/president of several Upstate businesses. Merl’s parents, both educators, greatly influenced him. In addition to ICS and Furman University, Merl serves on several local boards. He proudly co-leads the Greenville Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Commission.


The Institute for Child Success’ Honorable Merl F. Code Early Educators Fellowship Program

  • Each year, ICS will honor three early childhood educators in South Carolina identified as up and coming leaders, having entered the profession within the last ten years.
  • Fellows will receive mentorship, develop and communicate a research plan supporting young children, access a Fellowship alumni network, and receive an award of $5,000.
  • Honorees will go on to begin a one-year Fellowship in the spring focused on one of three tracks:
    • Equity / Advocacy / Practice

  • This Fellowship highlights the importance of building and maintaining a robust pipeline of early career educators dedicated to the field of early childhood and improving child and family outcomes.
  • At the beginning of each Fellowship cohort, honorees will be assigned an ICS staff mentor who will serve as their guide and main contact during the roughly one-year Fellowship. Code Fellows will meet with their mentors approximately 5-6 times over the course of the year.
  • The Fellowship will culminate with a special session during the Nurturing Developing Minds Conference (NDM). This session may also be held as a stand-alone event or pre-conference convening. During this session, honorees will share their reflections and learnings.
  • Intended to be a meaningful Fellowship, in addition to enhancing their professional development, Fellowship awardees will receive $5,000 each to do as they wish in one of the aforementioned three areas. (Payable in two $2,500 installments in September and March.)
  • Honorees must reside and work in Merl Code’s home state of South Carolina.

Honoree Qualifications

As a nod to Merl’s educator parents who greatly influenced him and in recognition of Merl himself, we will look for the following qualifications in honorees.

An honoree worthy of the Code Fellowship above is one who has demonstrated:

  1. A Love for Children (interaction with children)
  2. A Commitment for Excellence in the Classroom (performance/outcomes)
  3. A Willingness to go Above and Beyond (in and out of the classroom)
  4. Unwavering Support for Children (dedication)

Applications will be accepted for the ICS Merl Code Early Educators Fellowship Program through Friday, June 28 at 5:00pm ET. Application materials can be sent to A selection committee made up of ICS staff, seasoned educators, and at least one ICS Board member will review applications. Honorees will be notified in early August.

Fellowship Expectations

  1. Identify 1-2 issues (advocacy, equity, practice) impacting childcare or classroom settings involving young children (age 0-8).
  2. Collaborate with their ICS staff mentor and external parties to create a research plan around background of issue(s) and potential solutions.
  3. Develop two blogs and/or one white paper identifying learnings and reflections during the year.
  4. Detail the following in written products (blogs or white papers):
    • Potential impacts on childcare or classroom setting and outcomes
    • Implications for ICS work and strategy
    • Relevance to the ICS mission
  5. Present findings/learnings at NDM or other ICS event (likely co-presentation with ICS mentor).

Key Dates

Time during which selected early career educators participate in programming and complete key deliverables.

Phase 1: October-December 2024

  • Deliverable: Work Plan
  • Work with mentor to complete work plan

Phase 2: January-March 2025

  • Deliverable: Webinar
  • Co-present on research questions and preliminary findings or another related topic via webinar with ICS mentor

Phase 3: April-June 2025

  • Deliverable: In-Person Presentation
  • Present (solo) in-person on developments

Phase 4: July-September 2025

  • Deliverable: Written Product (blog or white paper)
  • Finalize written product detailing research and implications for the field of early childhood education or early childhood, more broadly

Post-Fellowship Alumni Network

After completing the Fellowship, Fellows take on new responsibilities and benefit from certain privileges.

  1. Complimentary registration for Nurturing Developing Minds (NDM) annual conference in 2026
  2. Inclusion in and access to Directory of Fellows, for networking purposes
  3. Publication of written product via ICS website (dependent on quality scholarship and successful completion of written product)
  4. Personalized written recommendation for future professional opportunities (dependent on satisfactory, successful completion of deliverables and Fellowship)
  5. Invitations to local South Carolina-based ICS events
  6. Ongoing access to ICS staff and other Fellows
  7. Complimentary admission to annual professional development opportunities
  8. Invitation to Fellows’ networking gatherings
  9. Opportunity to sit on selection committee for next round of Fellows

Application Instructions

The ICS Merl Code Early Educators Fellowship begins October 2024 and ends September 2025.

To apply, please submit the following materials by 5pm ET on Friday, June 28 to with the subject line “Code Fellowship Application:”

  1. Résumé
  2. Name and email address of one reference
  3. Thoughtful responses to three questions and prompts below (Microsoft Word or pdf)

Application Prompts

  1. Required: Which of the three Fellowship tracks most interests you – equity, advocacy or practice? How do you define it? Please explain how your interest in this track connects to early education outcomes. (100-200 words)
  1. Required: What do you believe is the single most impactful thing that can be done outside of the classroom to improve outcomes in the classroom for young children? (100-200 words)
  1. Required: Explain in detail how you exemplify each of the four qualifications. How has your career thus far demonstrated a love for children (interaction with children), a commitment to excellence in the classroom (performance/outcomes), the willingness to go above and beyond (in and out of classroom), unwavering support of children (dedication)? (300-400 words)
  1. Optional: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the selection committee?

Fellows Selection Process

  • Application materials should be submitted to by Friday, June 28 at 5pm ET.
  • A selection committee will carefully review each application submission. 
  • ICS will invite finalists for a 30-minute Zoom interview to be held mid to late July. Reference checks will also occur at this point.
  • Final decisions will be made and communicated to finalists by Friday, August 9.
  • Fellows are required to attend the ICS Founders Luncheon in Greenville, South Carolina on Thursday, September 19.

For more information, please reach out to Mary C. Garvey at

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