Overcoming past gang involvement, superintendent settles in

As he walks into his new office, it symbolizes the next step in a lifelong journey for Little Rock Superintendent, Dr. Dexter Suggs.

"Years ago I think if you would've told me I would be sitting here as superintendent, while I was out doing my knucklehead stuff, I would've looked at you like you were crazy," said Dr. Suggs while sitting down for an interview.

Suggs comes to Little Rock after working his way up to chief of staff in Indianapolis Public Schools, a system he's worked in since 2004.

To find out more about just how far the man has come in life, let's rewind 30 years -- where a lost Dexter Suggs was on the streets of St. Louis.

"I had become actively involved in gang situations," he said about his younger years.

"It was very violent. You hear gun shots, drug deals on the corner, dive-by's. That was just the way of life, I didn't know anything else."

His actions as a teenage gang member forced harsh consequences early on in life.

"(I was) shot a couple of times, um head busted open, and that's just basically the surface of it," Suggs admitted.

As a gifted athlete Suggs found a new light at the end of the tunnel, and a way out of what he labeled "the hood."

Following high school he went to Southern Illinois University on a track scholarship. His near encounters with death made him realize he needed to follow a different path.

"It has helped shape me as a person," Suggs remembered about his gang lifestyle.

"You get shot a couple of times, and it's a wake-up call. You know people always ask 'Well what turned your life around, what did you decide?' You know I didn't want to die."

Before long Suggs enlisted in the Army, where he was soon sent to the Arabian Desert and the battle grounds of Iraq with different enemies targeting his life.

"During that particular time was when I had an awakening, because you have a lot of time for I call intra personal communication," he added. "You know talking within one's self. Just basically what do you want to do with your life?"

At age 44, he's probably lived about seven lives at this point, seeing many things over time that none of us could imagine. He believes that experience is something that can help him cope with many of Little Rock's youth.

"It's not about Dexter Suggs, it's about you taking care of the mission that you've been sent to do in this lifetime."

Along with his veteran leadership and strict sense as an educator, Suggs also brings his wife and three children, ages 17, 15, and 10, with him to the Capital City.

As a former principal, Suggs had a no nonsense reputation of turning rough schools into model schools.

"The organizational component of the military, the no nonsense approach that the military taught me, the attention to detail, putting the mission first and staying focused to the mission," he said, contributing his personality to his military background.

Suggs is also an avid weightlifter, enjoys putting together models, especially some of the more difficult levels. He also signed to play football and run track at Jackson State University out of high school, but opted to go to SIU instead.