TOLEDO, Ohio — A community partnership just may be nurturing the person that will one day cure cancer or another heart-wrenching disease.

Students at Ottawa Hills High School are working to solve some of the world's greatest problems.

"In the past couple years, I've been working with cancer research," said senior Priya Bhatt.

The University of Toledo allows students in the Honors Scientific Research Course to work in their labs alongside experienced researchers to study cancer, DNA and protein analysis.

Ottawa Hills High School Research Course
STEM Course ranked #1 in region
Melissa Andrews

"It becomes this big learning community for everybody involved because there's so much give and take," said biology teacher Jeremy Nixon. "We had to have a way to get them into these institutions, so UT right away jumped on board."

It's a two-way street. UT scientists need help in laboratories and students gain college credits and priceless training from renowned researchers.

"They're already in the top tier of the country's science for how it impacts cancer or heart disease or auto immune disease," said Bina Joe, Ph.D., UT College of Medicine. "We are working right here in their backyard and they come in and reap the benefits."

The class is bringing national recognition for Ottawa Hills in just a short time.

The district is now ranked #1 in the region, #2 in Ohio and #61 out of 5,000 STEM schools in the country by Newsweek for 2020.

America is a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators, and our economic vitality and national security depend on our sustaining that vibrant culture. Science, technology, engineering, mathematics-these are the fields in which our children need to be fluent. The STEM skills that only specialists have today will be expected of virtually everyone in the American workforce tomorrow.

"These kids are some our highest achievers and they're creating new challenges. They want to research topics that interest them, but also topics that we need attention on more and more and to get them started at this level directly impacts them at the collegiate level and hopefully when they graduate and go out in the world, they make a big difference in the research," said superintendent Adam Fineske, Ph.D.

STEM program
Students work alongside University of Toledo researchers
Melissa Andrews

The program is sponsored by ProMedica and the Ottawa Hills Schools Foundation.

UT would like to work with students from other districts, as well.