Last week, Adrian Russell, our Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion/Procurement, was named the winner of the Real Estate, Development, & Construction category of Indy’s Best and Brightest. This honor recognizes professionals under 40 for their professional and philanthropic impact on the Indianapolis community. 

We interviewed Adrian and asked him a few questions about his founding of Russell’s Building Camp.

When and why did you start Russell’s Building Camp?

I formed Russell’s Building Camp in December 2020. My initial thought behind creating the camp was to give kids something to do during the pandemic. I’ve been in the construction industry for 10 years now, and a lot of project sites that I would go to lacked diversity and had labor shortages. Seeing these sites ultimately prompted the idea of creating a camp that gives young kids the opportunity to see what the construction industry is like and hopefully spur some excitement into joining the industry one day. The camp also gives kids a fun outlet while learning transferrable skills at the same time.

What is the purpose of Russell’s Building Camp? What skills does the camp teach the kids?

I believe the purpose of this camp is to show young kids the principles that come with building. In this camp, the kids can use their hands and minds and build something they can be proud of, and I think that it ultimately shows them how you can do or make anything that you set your mind to. In addition, I think that the camp also shows kids the value of establishing a good foundation, how to make safe choices, and the importance of working with others on a team whether that’s with professionals in the field or other kids like themselves. 

The lessons and skills that they learn are applicable in everyday life, and I think the most important skill that they can learn is being able to take on and complete a project with confidence. These kids learn how to use tools effectively and safely and can see their project come to life. Whether you have been in the construction industry for years or are just starting out, seeing all the materials and tools come together to make an extraordinary project brings a feeling of accomplishment that’s unmatched, and I wanted to share that feeling with young kids. 

What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on with the kids?

There are definitely a lot of projects that I’ve loved working on, but I would have to say when the kids and I made a giant Jenga game. One day, we hauled in a bunch of lumber and told the kids that we would be making a Jenga game. After gearing up in their hardhats and other safety equipment, we showed them how to measure out the length of each piece and how to cut each piece to make the game. We ended up making 54 blocks, and of course, we played the giant Jenga game afterwards. I enjoyed watching them stack the blocks and seeing the anticipation on their faces as they waited for the tower to topple over. Playing the game helped the kids see the transformation behind a project and how their hard work pays off.

When thinking about Russell’s Building Camp, what is something you’re most proud of?

For me, it’s very gratifying to know that I’ve played a part in helping a young person learn more about the construction industry, learn new skills, and most importantly just help them believe in themselves, especially children who have faced adversity.

I love making an impact through construction, but I always stress that these kids don’t have to go into construction if they don’t want to. I just want the kids to understand the value of using their hands to make something and I think that’s something that I’m most proud of.

Do you have any fun events coming up for Russell’s Building Camp?

We are excited to have some outdoor events within the next few months. In June, we are hoping to have a big outdoor event to celebrate the end of a school year and the start of the summer. Last year, the kids painted a field for a dodgeball game, and they were able to play a few rounds. We hope that we can have similar events this summer!

Is there anything else we should know about Russell’s Building Camp?

We are always interested in volunteers, sponsors, and partners to help grow the camp and provide more opportunities for the kids, so please reach out if you are interested!

Thank you, Adrian, for all that you do for Shiel Sexton, the Indianapolis community, and the youth of Indiana.