Mr. Julian (Julian Perrin) and his unfortunate shoes

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Ninth graders at Tech Freire Charter High School in North Philadelphia decided their world history teacher’s shoes were so ugly, they just had to buy him new ones.

So they started a GoFundMe. Titled “Mr. Julian Needs New Shoes,” the page savages the namesake instructor, calling his footwear “hideous” and noting that because he’s “broke, ” he needs the students’ help.

Launched with a $200 goal, the fundraiser took off after it was shared in a Facebook group and on Twitter. Within a day, it garnered more than 10 times the original target — as of Saturday afternoon, $2,300 and counting — from over 175 donors.

The students who launched the page are elated, said Christina, the 14-year-old who set it up.

“We decided to make a GoFundMe page for April fools,” she said, “and it blew up over night. Now we are able to buy Mr. Julian at least three pairs of sneakers!”

It’s been a long-running issue in the classroom. “The joke all started when me and my friends Mahogani, Michael, Suri, Nydirah, and Sabria started making fun of his shoes,” Christina explained, “calling them boots and saying how he needs to throw them in the trash.”

They teased him so often that the whole class was in on it, she said. The group was still laughing as they headed into their next period, so science teacher Bailey Fulton (aka Ms. Bailey) decided to encourage the fun.

“Once we finished our work, we decided to have a little fun,” Fulton said, “and a handful of students and I helped create a message and put some pictures together.”

Proof that Perrin wears these ‘boots’ to teach class Credit: Courtesy Tech Freire Charter High School

Julian’s full name is Julian Perrin, a 28-year-old with a master’s in education from Temple, said Fulton. He’s been at Tech Freire for four years, moving up from an internal sub to join the history department, his true passion.

And he really is broke, according to a screenshot posted by a friend, who sent a note to Perrin telling him he was Twitter famous.

In the GoFundMe, the kids say donations will go toward buying Mr. Julian a pair of Nike Blazer 77s, because that was the affordable choice, per science teacher Fulton. Now they could afford a pair with much more bling — or could use the money for something else entirely.

The generosity and amusement of Philadelphians is thrilling for everyone involved, Fulton said, and it exemplifies the mission of the school.

Launched in 2016 in a former Packard automobile showroom across from the Uptown Theater, the school is named for Paulo Freire, a Brazillian educator famous for advancing the theory that active participation is much a better way to teach than rote memorization.

“We’ve got a tight knit community at Tech, and this story kind of highlights the student-teacher relationship we’ve been working to develop,’” Fulton said. “All the kids are so excited.”

Tech Freire Charter High School is in a former Packard automobile showroom on North Broad Street Credit: Matt Wargo

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...