Lou birthed all three of her children out of wedlock. They live in a small, conservative town in the hills of western Pennsylvania, where townspeople hold to traditional values. The oldest child, Derek, is a high school student there, and his mother's shameful past has socially hindered him. Now, she's having an affair with one of the more upright citizens of Alton. The scandal brings out the worst-for a few, the best-in the citizens of Alton and further alienates mother and son.
Calvin, the elderly school janitor, has failed in his own education. A man of exceptional character, he endeavors to keep the school premises neat and safe to encourage the students at Alton High in their learning. But it's his wise counsel that brings Derek through this difficult time. This janitor plays a unique role in Derek's life.