Participant FAQs

Information about the registration process, payment, refund/cancellation policies, and the Staff Development Track can be found on their respective pages. This section is intended to answer lingering questions you may have. You’ve heard the ABCs are a unique conference experience — what does that look like in practice?

We hope to continue to expand this page over time, so please reach out if there's something missing — we promise we don't bite!

General Questions

Why are they called the ABCs?

The Alternative Break Citizenship schools, also known as the ABCs, started as “Break Away Boot Camps” in 1992. The current name is an homage to the Citizenship Schools established throughout the South in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement to train activists and support voting rights. The Citizenship Schools were started at the Highlander Center, a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in the South, from the labor movements in the 1930s to more recent multi-racial, inter-generational organizing around immigration justice.

Early in our history, Break Away staff attended trainings at the Highlander Center that helped shape our vision and voice. The Alternative Break Citizenship schools are a continuation of that work, dedicated to educating communities for social action.

Who attends the ABCs?

The ABCs are for everyone! The majority of attendees come from higher education institutions, although we’ve had a handful of participants from high schools. Most participants are looking to apply the curriculum through the context of alternative breaks — they either have or are looking to start an alternative break program at their institution. However, the curriculum is broadly applicable to programming within community engagement, community based-learning, and social justice education.

Staff are often curious where they fit into the ABCs. As a whole, the vast majority of ABCs participants are students (it’s typically a 9:1 ratio of student to staff participants) and the experience is heavily student-focused. However, the curriculum is applicable to both roles and many staff participants have appreciated the opportunity to connect directly with students from other programs.


I've registered and paid what happens next?

First off, make sure you’ve actually registered — submitted the registration form; completed payment; and received a confirmation email. You’d be surprised by the number of new friends we meet the day the conference begins.

Your confirmation email, which will be sent 3-5 days after we receive your registration form, will include:

  • confirmation of which ABCs you’ll be attending 
  • information about the conference Facebook group, where you can start connecting with other participants

You’ll receive your Pre-Packet by email approximately two weeks before the ABCs begins. The Pre-Packet will include welcome and orientation information including log-in information and a selection of education resources to introduce the alternative break focus area.

What do I need for the virtual ABCs?

A conference checklist will be sent out to participants in the Pre-Packet two weeks before the start of their ABCs. However, you can probably expect to see the following on that list:

  • A reliable internet connection
  • Zoom downloaded on your computer or mobile device — having access to a keyboard will be useful, but not required
  • Notebook and something to write with
  • An adventurous spirit, ready to navigate this new experience!

We encourage you to be as “distraction-free” as possible. This will look different for each of us, but for each session we ask that participants be as fully engaged as they can (use of “chat function”, cameras on and mics muted, other browsers closed, etc).

Although there are a lot of benefits to gathering virtually, we also recognize that a virtual learning space can come with its own host of access barriers. If you’re concerned your internet connection, technology access, or other factors might hinder your participation, we encourage you to reach out as soon as possible so we can work with you to identify accommodations.


Much like a traditional alternative break, the ABCs are an immersive experience — in short, the ABCs are intense. Our virtual experience will be as well. Our days will begin at 12pm ET (9am PT) and evening reflections can go until 7pm ET (4pm PT).

We believe the ABCs are an experience we create together (staff, participants, and community partners). And like many things, you get out of the ABCs what you put into them. For that reason, we strive to create an environment where people are participating fully and we recognize that may look different for everyone. We want participants to take time to meet their own needs and we’re eager to work with you to make that happen. 

We encourage people to start by taking a look at the conference sample schedule. We’ve tried to outline the most frequently asked questions here but encourage you to reach out to discuss further. We won’t expect you to disclose or discuss a disability or other particulars unless you feel comfortable; we believe accommodations are a fundamental right.

What opportunities are there to modify the schedule, if needed?

If you’re anticipating that you may need additional breaks during the ABCs, we’d love to work with you to proactively identify alternate plans. That doesn’t exclude the opportunity to make last minute adjustments, but helps our staff and your team plan ahead.

If you have specific conflicts during the week that will take you away from conference programming (e.g. an important phone meeting), your Team Leaders can work with you to find a solution that meets your needs while honoring the team aspect of the experience.

Will recordings of the sessions be made available?

Because the ABCs are an immersive, interactive experience, participants need to be engaged with us and the material in real time.Therefore, we won’t be recording sessions for future use. We’ll have several opportunities to continue the conversation after the ABCs through webinars, consultation calls, and working groups.

Will there be opportunities to further engage with the curriculum after the ABCs are over?

We know this is a time of rapid change and we’re committed to working with schools as they continue to adapt programming. In addition to the three days of workshops, we’ll be offering continued support for ABCs participants through the fall. This includes a post-ABCs consultation call with a member of our team and access to webinars focused on additional topics (including full engagement, reorientation, branding, recruitment + selections, and funding).


As part of an alternative break experience, the ABCs includes an emphasis on service as an opportunity to support, learn from, and build relationships with the local community. Each team will have three opportunities for service, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the conference.

What will the service be?

This year, we will be exploring virtual advocacy work via storytelling. To do this, we will be working using StoryCorps resources to promote interconnectivity and encourage engagement in local issues. 

As anyone who has planned an alternative break knows, projects can be in flux until the last minute and planning an alternative break experience for 100 people comes with its own share of challenges. Because of that, we typically don’t share specifics until the start of the conference. 

How can I prepare for service?

We believe the best way to prepare for service is to engage fully in pre-trip education, orientation, and training. That starts with the Pre-Packet, which will be sent to each participant two weeks before the start of the conference, and provides an introduction to the topic and organization we’ll be working with.