Against all the odds, she continues to succeed. She is the first Penan woman to become a university student, and her name is Lonnie Jalung.
Twenty-year-old Lonnie hails from Limbang, and was at Jerudong International School yesterday to receive this year's JIS 'Penan Award' - an award for the Penan, who are a nomadic aboriginal people living mostly in Sarawak.
The award of B$1,800 was raised through fundraising efforts of the JIS Upper School Student Council, and was intended to help support Lonnie in her studies at a university in Kuching.
Taking the stage and speaking to an audience of JIS students, Lonnie shared the story of how she came to stand on that very stage, and talked about her life in the rainforest, which she described as "peaceful, perfect and clean", saying that it gives her, her family and her people everything they needed to survive.
She said, however, that things are changing because of all the logging that takes place.
"The only way to get money is education, but to learn and get education, we need money," she said.
A moment that clearly left the audience taken aback yesterday was when Lonnie described how she used to get to school.
"To get to school, every day it would take three hours to go there by boat, then another three hours to go back," she said.
"Sometimes there is no boat, and then we have to walk six hours through the jungle to get to school."
The reaction clearly visible on the faces of the students in the audience showed that they were affected.
"Sometimes, we would sleep in the jungle at night, because it's so far to walk," she said, adding that transportation was always one of the major problems.
She recounted what her father used to tell her when she complained, saying, "If you don't want to walk again, study so you can buy a car."
Lonnie went on to thank JIS once again, revealing that because of them, Lonnie and those with her now have transportation, food, uniforms, books and everything they need to continue their studies.
Reaching out to the audience, she promised to continue to study hard and succeed.
Speaking to the Bulletin, Lonnie explained what the driving force was to get her where she is now.
"It's because of my father, because he is strict," she said. "He forced me to go to school. If not I would not be here. There are many people who helped us, so I don't want to disappoint them - I want to make them proud."
Answering a question on how she adjusted to moving from the rainforest to the city, she said, "It was very, very difficult. In the forest there's a culture there, and when someone comes from that they will be surprised in the city, because it's different from the forest, so maybe it takes time."
Yesterday Lonnie was presented with her award in the form of a giant cheque, which was presented to her by Ms Jacky McLaren and the Head of Upper School, Mr Peter Flynn at the JIS Arts Centre auditorium.
Ms Violette Tan, who is described by JIS as "a driving force behind the Penan Helping Hands group", which helped Lonnie, was also there to show her support.