group photo
At Honolulu Pride in 2018. (Photo credit: Camaron Miyamoto)

The Rainbow ʻOhana Program, a new LGBTQ+ Center service and honors society at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, is a peer mentorship program that started in fall 2021 with 30 participants from across disciplines. Grounded in a mission of social justice, the program is designed to help students work together to address barriers to student success. Graduates of the Rainbow ʻOhana Program will earn a rainbow honor stole that can be worn in the commencement ceremony.

Students in the Rainbow ʻOhana Program have a strong sense of responsibility to one another as they help create a sense of community, affirm intersectional identities and work toward an academic vision that creates more shared opportunities for interpersonal growth and academic success.

A rainbow honor stole. (Photo credit: Camaron Miyamoto)

“I have always wanted to initiate a peer mentorship program because I feel that students are uniquely qualified to inspire others to greatness,” said Camaron Miyamoto, director of the LGBTQ+ Center at UH Mānoa. “I strive to create a learning community for the LGBTQ+ and allied students that I engage with to engender a sense of extended family. I continue to learn from the students I work for and this is an opportunity for our Rainbow Ambassadors, or peer mentors, to teach other students how they navigate success at UH Mānoa.”

The Rainbow ʻOhana Program is currently accepting members for its next cohort that will start in fall 2022. Any student that is interested can register online. All students are welcome to get involved with a weekly LGBTQ+ coffee hour, which meets every Wednesday, 4–5 p.m., on Zoom, students can email lgbtq@hawaii.edu for the password. It is an informal chance to hang out with other students, discuss the events of the week and make new friends.

group with a pride flag
(Photo credit: HMSA Island Scene Magazine)

“Joining the Rainbow ʻOhana Program has helped me meet fellow LGBTQ+ students,” said Jamie Rosario Advincula, a junior at UH Mānoa. “I’ve been able to go to the group for help navigating the overwhelming amount of information and programs at UH Mānoa. I’ve already learned from previous students about so many things on campus and on Oʻahu that I wouldn’t have found on my own.”

“With the Rainbow ʻOhana Program, having such a diverse set of mentors including myself, I think we can begin to bridge that gap of generalized support to personalized support for our mentees,” said Micah Axalan, a mentor in the Rainbow ʻOhana Program and a PhD student in the School of Architecture. “I think that’s why it is important for UH to have a program like this for the community.”

The program began because of support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Success, including the Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity, and performance funding from the Office of the Provost.

This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.