Top-scoring Sabahan who helps the needy gets accepted into Ivy League universities, chooses to attend Stanford University

Anne Grace Savitha
·5-min read
Ivan Avannus is over the moon to have been accepted into seven top universities in the world. — Picture by Ivan Avannus Jacob Jimbangan
Ivan Avannus is over the moon to have been accepted into seven top universities in the world. — Picture by Ivan Avannus Jacob Jimbangan

PETALING JAYA, April 20 — Having obtained straight 9A+ for his SPM examinations in 2018, Sabahan Ivan Avannus Jacob Jimbangan found time to help the poor and needy.

He also co-founded non-profit organisation Komuhakan Movement to empower indigenous communities in Sabah.

Somewhere in between he also participated in various competitions including having his team emerge champions for the Sime Darby Young Innovators Challenge (SDYIC) in 2016 where they came up with the idea of Malaysia’s first-ever food surplus app known as Robin Food to curb food wastage while feeding the needy.

But with all his achievements, Ivan Avannus still thought he would be able to obtain entry into any of the top universities in the world.

So he applied to 12 universities in the United States and some in the United Kingdom.

And got accepted into five Ivy Leagues — Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Brown University besides the University of Chicago and Stanford University.

The 20-year-old from Penampang, Sabah who is pursuing his A-Levels in Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ) in Negri Sembilan on a Bank Negara scholarship, has chosen Stanford.

He will be enrolling in its 2025 class in September this year.

“The reason is because entry is so competitive and I didn’t know back then if I could even enter one of these universities. I know of people who applied to many universities but either got acceptance into one or none at all.”

“It feels surreal that I will be halfway across the globe in September this year. I still can’t believe it,” he told Malay Mail earlier today.

He added that as one of the most selective universities in the world, Stanford attracted some of the world’s most talented and brilliant minds.

“I think there is an assumption that Stanford is more of a STEM-inclined school, and thus would be less appropriate for studying the social sciences or humanities

“But for me, the intersection between the natural sciences and social sciences offered at Stanford is what makes the institution truly unique because I am interested in studying technology and economics.”

He is planning to pursue a major in Economics and do a minor in either Mathematics or Public Policy.

Culture enthusiast and a proud east Malaysian

Coming from a diverse background of Iban, Bidayuh and Kadazan, Ivan Avannus is proud of his rich ethnicity and has been spreading awareness on various indigenous languages on social media.

With the Komuhakan Movement, some of the efforts were research on the Kadazan language and promoting the language via infographics and posters online.

“Last year, my team and I organised the inaugural writing competition for primary and secondary school students in collaboration with the Kadazandusun Language Foundation to preserve the Kadazandusun language.

“A lot of indigeneous languages around the world are dying out, and if nothing is done about it, no one will be able to speak these languages.”

Ivan (second right) with upper secondary school winners of the writing competition. — Picture by Ivan Avannus Jacob Jimbangan
Ivan (second right) with upper secondary school winners of the writing competition. — Picture by Ivan Avannus Jacob Jimbangan

He added that it was also his personal mission to show that the natives of Sabah and Sarawak were on par with other Malaysians in terms of gaining stellar achievements.

Ethnicities like Kadazan, Iban or Bidayuh are under-represented in the international platform due to the lack of resources, support, and opportunities available.”

He spoke of the many times his school in Penampang, St Michael’s secondary school was flooded and the many times when the electricity went off.

“Many students are also unable to go to school because they stay so far away and they lack the infrastructure and facilities to travel to schools.

“But I am fortunate to be born and raised in a middle-class family, and that is why I want to use the resources to help those around me.”

He also attributes his successes to his parents for allowing him to delve into multiple hobbies and interests and his competitive spirit for always trying new things.

Helping the needy through various platforms

His team’s winning entry for the SDYIC saw them secure partnerships with Tesco Malaysia and Food Aid Foundation.

“The application connects supermarkets with surpluses of food to non-governmental organisations and charitable organisations where excess food will be channelled to the urban poor and homeless.”

Ivan (second right) and his team created the prototype of the first-ever surplus food app known as Robin Food. — Picture by Ivan Avannus Jacob Jimbangan
Ivan (second right) and his team created the prototype of the first-ever surplus food app known as Robin Food. — Picture by Ivan Avannus Jacob Jimbangan

Apart from solving wastage and environmental issues, the food application also addresses social issues by feeding those in need.

Last year, when the country was under the first movement control order, he spearheaded a fundraising campaign ‘KTJ Cares’ and collected RM58,000 over a span of a few days.

“It was an emotional time for many Malaysians and initially, my friends and I decided to fork in money to raise funds before partnering with other organisations such as NGO Hub and Yayasan Generasi Gemilang.

“Collaboratively, our efforts secured the funds needed to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and food aid to all those in need.”

He added that the need to help others was because he was constantly motivated by his peers and the people around him.

“At times, it is very difficult to draw that support and strength within myself if I were to do things alone.

“That is why I’m always motivated and encouraged by my peers, family and the people around me who are always doing great things for society.”

Asked about his future plans, Ivan Avannus said that he wanted to become a policymaker or a researcher as he sees himself doing a lot of activism-based work in areas such as youth-empowerment, education equality and poverty eradication.

He also aspires to work with the United Nations or the World Bank.

Related Articles Police: Form Five student in Sarawak hospital with serious injuries after falling from third floor of school Female student from Malaysia among new symptomatic imported cases in Singapore Cops: Form Six student nabbed for murder of her friend in Terengganu