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— Zarate says that Ley has hired a number of former empacadores after they reach legal working age. "If one of the kids turns 16 and asks for a paying job here, he's going to receive preference over other applicants because he was part of the program."

But, as much as he says he likes bagging groceries for tips, Delgado quickly answers no when asked if he'd like to come back to Ley and work in the grocery business when he reaches 16. "I want to stay in school and become an architect or a computer programmer."

Bedoya says stories like Delgado's are what DIF hopes to accomplish with the empacadores program. Without the program, he believes, a child like Delgado would likely be "on the street begging for money, washing windows, selling Chiclets, looking for some way to make money."

And once in the situation of trying to make money on the street, Bedoya says teenagers in Tijuana, especially boys, are turning to prostitution with increasing frequency. Instead, Bedoya says, children like Delgado are helping their families and themselves financially without having to leave school. "And they become responsible," he adds. "They learn the value of work, and they learn to be more careful with their things and their money."

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