Teacher rappelling from C. City building - to help kids

Carver HS of Engineering and Science teacher John Kalicki is rappelling from a Center City building to raise money to fund trips for his students. He's shown here on an Outward Bound trip.

How much does Philadelphia high school teacher John Kalicki believe in his students?

So much that he’s planning to rappel down a 20-story Center City building to raise money to give them life experiences they wouldn’t get otherwise.

Which would be impressive but understandable if Kalicki, a math teacher at Carver High School of Engineering and Science, were an avid rappeller. But Kalicki has rappelled a grand total of once in his life.

“The time I did it, my arm got stuck in a caribiner, and it hurt like heck,” said Kalicki, a born-and-bred Philadelphian. “But it was an interesting experience.”

He’s one of dozens of people raising money for Outward Bound Philadelphia, the nonprofit that provides outdoor leadership programs for students and adults. On Nov. 2, Kalicki and dozens of others — including a handful of other teachers — will rappel over the edge of 1515 Market Street, a 21-story Center City building.

For years, Outward Bound has been sponsoring kids at Carver, a city magnet school at 1600 West Norris St. in North Philadelphia, on two five-day trips a year — backpacking in the fall, and canoeing in the spring.  Kalicki has gone on multiple trips as an adult chaperone, usually to spots on the Appalachian Trail, such as the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The outings are often the first time the teens have spent significant time in the outdoors, out of the city. They build memories, Kalicki said, and they build character.

“It is such a great learning experience for them,” said Kalicki, who’s also taught at Kensington, Masterman, Audenried and Pepper during his 26-year career.  “They teach them a lot of leadership skills, group dynamic things. We have such great kids; they deserve this.”

The trips are essentially free for students. Carver kicks in $350 for each weeklong trip (the money comes out of the school’s budget, Kalicki said); students are asked to pay $20 if they can, but no one is turned away for lack of funds.  

So Kalicki felt like he had to take the chance to raise money for a cause he believes in - despite his lack of rappelling experience.

"He's a great partner of ours," said Erin Lawson, an official with Outward Bound Philadelphia, said of Kalicki.

The next Carver Outward Bound outing is later this month; it’s already paid for, but the money raised at the rappelling event will cover future trips for underserved students, Outward Bound Philadelphia officials say.

The organization serves about 4,000 people a year, Lawson said, most of them students in the city’s public and charter schools.

Participants must raise $2,000 to rappel.  As of Wednesday, 30 donors had pledged $1,327 for Kalicki’s cause.

For more information about Kalicki’s goal, check out this link:

For a list of the other folks raising funds for the Nov. 2 building adventure, go here: