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Trying To Revive UH ‘Rainbows’

Rainbows are common at Helemano Elementary | Steve Chinen photo

Last August, I shared the story about my lifelong fascination with rainbows, and dozens of MidWeek readers responded with personal stories and their favorite photos.

It’s been nearly six months, and I continue to receive breathtaking pictures from rainbow lovers all across the state. Several weeks ago, I received an intriguing email from Steve Chinen whose passion for rainbows is off the charts.

Chinen is a counselor at Helemano Elementary School in Whitmore Village near Wahiawa. The 58-year-old Chinen, who is known as Sgt. Rainbow on campus, wanted to tell me about a homegrown counseling program he was developing called “The Rainbows in Me.” He says the rainbows he sees on campus almost daily inspired the program. The acronym spells out the program’s core values:

Respect for yourself and others
Belly Breathing and Mindfulness

Oh, the great things you will do
When it rains, use your umbrella and look for the rainbow
Service to your community

But Chinen’s passion for rainbows goes far beyond the education program. Besides counseling students at Helemano Elementary School, Chinen is currently organizing a grassroots effort to keep the Rainbows nickname for University of Hawaii men’s sports alive.

“It’s tradition,” he says with emphasis and excitement. “It’s who we are.”

Several weeks ago, new University of Hawaii Athletics Director Ben Jay announced that the new nickname for all UH men’s sports will be Warriors and women will continue to be referred to as Rainbow Wahine. Jay said the change, which is set to become official on July 1, was necessary to have a consistent branding and marketing message.

Chinen believes it’s not too late to stop what many say is inevitable, so he’s organizing a “Rally 4 Rainbows” event on campus. No date has been set for the rally but Chinen says he’s committed to making it happen.

“I want to have the rally outside Ben Jay’s office, and when we get the date confirmed I’ll let him know,” says Chinen. “I know plenty people are happy with Warriors but there are a lot of people who love their Rainbows too. People tell me, ‘Nobody going show up at the rally,’ but even if I’m the only person there, that’s fine. I can say I tried.”

Chinen understands the importance of marketing and branding, but he believes Hawaii’s new athletics director “simply chose the wrong name.” Chinen says his grassroots effort has grabbed the attention of state lawmakers, the media, long-time fans and many former UH athletes.

“A lot of people told me to get over it already and move on,” says Chinen, who has been a school counselor for 16 years. “I know people think this is a distraction, but I still think if you want to talk about marketing, Rainbows is still a viable product and something we should embrace and be proud of.”

Chinen believes the Hawaiian rainbow symbolizes Hawaii’s diversity.

“In our island state, people of different colors and cultures respect each other and work together, and no other symbol reflects this synergetic diversity better than the rainbow,” he says with strong conviction.

Chinen says students at Helemano Elementary School often have fun when a rainbow appears in the morning sky. He says some will shout, “Rain” and others respond a second later, “‘Bows,” just like fans do at games.

He’s hopeful that like UH’s unique nickname, the concept of “The Rainbows in Me” counseling program will remain with students long after they leave Helemano Elementary School.

“Rainbows in our Hawaiian skies virtually guarantee this because whenever they appear, our former students will be reminded of the rainbows in their hearts and minds,” says Chinen.

“Rainbows provide all of us with lifelong lessons. We can’t lose sight of that!”