Amber Appleton is a high school student living in Portland, Oregon with her mother Becky. The two are temporarily homeless after Becky leaves her abusive boyfriend Oliver, and sleep in the school bus Becky drives. She also works several jobs, including teaching an ESL class and working in an old age home, where she has bonded with Joan, a resident there. She also plans an annual school variety show, the proceeds going to various charitable causes. Amber is invited to audition for the drama program at Carnegie Mellon University, her deceased father’s alma mater. At Becky’s encouragement, she spends money she has saved for she and Becky to rent an apartment for a plane ticket. Becky’s employers discover that she has been living in her bus and fire her; when she decides to return to Oliver, Amber refuses to join her, sleeping on a park bench.
She confides about her situation in her friend Ty, who takes Amber to his family’s vacation house to give her a place to stay and to help her prepare for her audition. She tells Ty that Becky struggled with her father’s death, causing the two to be evicted and move in with Oliver, who eventually became abusive towards Becky. Becky, who is an alcoholic, frequently suffers relapses while with Oliver. With the help of Donna, the mother of her friend Ricky, Amber tells Becky that she does not feel safe living with Oliver. The two have an argument, and Becky leaves; Amber stays at Donna’s house. The following morning, Amber meets with police officers at school, who inform her that Oliver and Becky have both been killed in a car accident, presumably while driving drunk.
On the day she is scheduled to fly to Pittsburgh for her audition, Amber discovers that her dog Bobby is sick; she misses her flight to take him to the vet, where she learns he requires expensive surgery. She drops out of school and begins working full-time in order to afford the surgery, forgoing a rescheduled audition and losing contact with her friends. Ty confronts her and accuses her of rejecting help from others, and the two stop speaking. She plans to skip the variety show, only for Ty to surprise her at work, revealing that the proceeds will go towards paying for Bobby’s surgery. All of Amber’s friends perform in the show, including the students of her ESL class. At the end of the evening, the fundraiser is still $2,000 short of its goal, but suddenly receives an anonymous donation of $200,000. At the old age home, Joan reveals that she is the one who made the donation, telling Amber that she considers her family. Amber receives another audition from Carnegie Mellon, and she and Ty share a kiss before she leaves.