Homeless students, immigrant youth and shrinking funds for higher education are the topics framing a documentary film series that aims to engage audiences in exploring the intersection of education and social issues.

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Connecting realities in schools to issues in the wider world outside doesn’t require much of a leap — as has often been noted, schools are mini-mirrors of society. Three documentaries to be screened through the University of Washington’s Education and Society film series powerfully underscore those links.

The first, “I Learn America,” focuses on five immigrant teens in New York City, trying to master English and reunite with long-estranged families, while navigating the standard shoals of adolescence.

It will be shown Monday at the UW’s Intellectual House, from 7 to 9 p.m.

The second film, “The Homestretch,” follows three homeless students as they try to get an education in Chicago. It will be screened Nov. 7 at Foster High School in Tukwila, with support from the Times’ Education Lab project.

The third documentary, “Starving the Beast,” aims at funding for higher education and traces what the filmmakers see as a broad shift away from believing in public universities as a societal good, toward the view that their costs should be borne by those earning college degrees.

“Starving the Beast” will be shown at Kane Hall on the UW campus Dec. 5, from 7 to 9 p.m.

After each screening, audience members will be invited to discuss the issues raised with an expert panel.

“We wanted to connect people to these ideas and build bridges with the wider community,” said Tom Halverson, director of the UW’s graduate program in education policy. “We thought people might be intimidated by listening to a professor talk, but everyone watches movies.”

The panel on student homelessness includes some locally known names.

Josephine Ensign, author of the new book, “Catching Homelessness,” currently teaches at the UW. But during the late 1980s, while running a medical clinic for homeless people in Virginia, Ensign found herself vulnerable to many of the same forces ravaging the lives of her patients, as The New York Times put it.

Ruth Blaw, director of the James W. Ray Orion Center for youth, offers education, refuge and other services to thousands of homeless youth annually. And Jonathon Houston, adviser on homeless students at Foster High School in Tukwila, worked with more than 300 children in need of stable housing during his first year on the job.

Houston, profiled in The Times last May, knew what they were going through; he and his family have been homeless too.

“This topic,” noted Halverson, “has become a poignant challenge in the city of Seattle. It’s on peoples’ minds.”

This story, originally published Oct. 22nd, has been corrected.  The film “The Homestretch” will be screened on Nov. 7 at Foster High School.  The original post had an incorrect date.