Ryan Blair didn’t get off to a good start. At age 16, when most kids born into a middle-class household are starting to wonder which colleges they want to apply to, he was sitting in a jail cell in Los Angeles, the result of his 10th arrest as a juvenile. In the previous few years, he’d left the family house because of his father’s meth addiction and violent behavior, spent almost a year living in a toolshed in his half-sister’s backyard, and joined a gang. (He’s got the tattoos to prove it.) His numerous siblings had already spent a collective decade doing hard time, and Blair seemed a good bet to join the family club. Luckily, that last stint behind bars—26 days—scared him straight.