Shnoria Brown, 37, takes a photo after picking her children up from after-school programs Sept. 5. Brown has experienced a lot of hardships as a single mother of six — from financial hardship to time restraints, she said. Brown figures things out as they come, she added. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Shnoria Brown has a strong belief: Something must be done for people experiencing poverty. As a single parent of six children, Brown, 37, has experienced poverty at the highest level.

“I get up and I do it every day. But it’s hard. It’s super hard. Just to be transparent right now, I didn’t have any gas to get here,” Brown said about meeting with the Report. “I just transitioned from one job to the next, but the school only pays me once a month, so that stretch has been killing me.”

Brown’s children — 5, 6, 7 and 14 years old, plus 16-year-old twins — participate in after school activities in east Fort Worth, but she works close to North Crowley. Gas money is something she has to consider every time she drives.

The nonprofit Cultivating Thru Struggles is working to help Brown and her children through its M.I.N.D. Over Guns Campaign’s poverty simulation. Brown’s family participated in mid-July. The simulation, which had participants role play in scenarios requiring them to make decisions based on fixed income, disabilities and priorities, is part of the first in a series of workshops. The simulations are meant to foster community and empower families and youth, nonprofit founder LaTasha Ireland said. 

Brown joined the program to help her children understand the experience of parenting in poverty. Her eldest children roleplayed as parents, an experience Brown hopes will better prepare them for struggles they could face in the future. 

“You find yourself in these situations where you’re like, ‘I budget good, I balance good, but I’m still struggling. I’m still trying to figure out: Why is this not adding up?’” Brown said.

As a behavior management specialist at Crowley Middle School, she said she’s seen children get mad at parents for not providing them things they want. In reality, she said, the parents are just trying their hardest to make it through the day.

“(My children) had to learn how to balance things with limited resources, how to deal with eviction, Child Protective Services and more during the simulation,” Brown said. “It’s sad, too, because when life starts getting hard, the last thing you need is someone taking your child. They are my motivation. I make it happen for them.”

The poverty simulation is part one of the larger M.I.N.D. Over Guns Campaign, which launched in July and will run through Jan. 15, 2024. The series of workshops promote mental alertness, intentionality, nonviolent behavior and driving change.

“When I was doing research, all the stuff that was going on in Fort Worth centered around teens or adults — nothing for kids,” Ireland said. “The whole concept is to indirectly educate them on listening, reasonable thinking and critical reasoning.”

While teaching the children is the goal, the parents need education, too, Ireland said. So, the workshops are meant to be experienced as a family. The nonprofit will host its next workshop Sept. 30.

“That workshop … is helping me have the mental capacity to understand what is happening in my life,” Brown said. “I don’t know what their life would be like if I died tomorrow. However, while I have this time, I need to be able to pour into my children. In the event something happens, I am doing the best I can and stimulating their mind.”

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter.

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Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...