Participant FAQs

You’ve heard the ABCS are a unique conference experience, but what does that look like in practice? This FAQ section is intended to answer any lingering questions you may have. 

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, and the majority of attendees come from higher education institutions. Most participants are looking to apply our 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 as to where they fit into the ABCS. This year, our final summer ABCS will feature sessions exclusively for full-time staff and GAs, though you’re welcome to attend any of the other two conferences if you have a scheduling conflict. As a whole, the vast majority of ABCS participants are students (it’s typically a 9:1 ratio of students to staff participants), but the curriculum is applicable to either role and many staff participants have reported appreciating the opportunity to connect directly with students from other programs.

I've registered and paid for the ABCS. What happens next?

First off, make sure you’ve completed the registration process. Have you submitted the registration form, completed payment, and received an email (or emails) confirming both your registration AND your payment? You’d be surprised by the number of new friends we meet the day the conference begins.

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

  • confirmation of which ABCS you’ll be attending 
  • payment status

One week out from the conference you’ll receive an email with detailed information, including:

  • Zoom links
  • information about the conference Facebook group (or Slack channel for Staff Track), where you can start connecting with other participants
  • a link to your ABCs Resource Page (formerly the Pre-Packet)

If you do not receive a confirmation email within 5 days of registering, please reach out to us.

What do I need for the virtual ABCs?

A virtual pack list will be sent out to participants via the Resource Page two weeks before the start of their ABCs. However, expect to see the following on that list:

  • A reliable internet connection
  • Zoom downloaded (and updated with the latest version) on your computer or mobile device — having access to a keyboard will be useful, but not required
  • Notebook (or print out of presentation materials) and something to write with
  • An adventurous spirit ready to navigate this 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 present as they can be (engaging with facilitators and your fellow participants, cameras on, 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 that 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.

What are the “comprehensive training materials”?

Aka your conference Resource Page that you can use before, during, and after your ABCS! On this page you’ll find:

  • An introduction to the justice topic we’ll cover during the conference. Materials like blog posts, videos, podcasts, and a key terms list
  • Zoom link and passcode, workshop outlines, and links to any resources or materials referenced in the workshops
  • Break Away staff, Team Leaders, and participants contact information
  • A virtual ABCS survival guide

This webpage will be a living resource list that you’ll have access to after your ABCS is over. We hope that you’ll come back to it as a means of furthering your learning and reference as you continue strategic planning post-ABCS. 

If you’ve attended the ABCS before, you know that we’ve historically provided participants with paper copies of workshop outlines to help you follow along with the content. This year, we’re making a commitment to reduce paper waste. We will have PDF versions available for you to print out if you choose (we’ve found some folks like to write in their own notebooks versus what we provide — so do your thing!). If you do not have access to a printer, we’re happy to provide a paper version for you. Just email us no later than two weeks before the ABCS.

*you have the option of asking us not to publish your contact information in the registration process.


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 EDT (9am PDT) and evening reflections can go until 6:00pm EDT (3:00pm PDT).

We believe the ABCS are an experience we create together (Break Away staff, Team Leaders, and participants). 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 included additional breaks this year and will provide participants with ideas that encourage you to make the most out of the breaks (i.e. things to do other than scroll on your phone). 

We’ve tried to outline the most frequently asked schedule 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 conference that will take you away from programming (e.g. an important phone meeting), Break Away staff and/or your Team Leaders can work with you to find a solution that meets your needs while honoring the team aspect of the experience. 

Will there be opportunities to explore and learn more about a specific topic after the ABCS?

We are here to help our participants along their active citizenship journey. Because of this, the ABCS Resource Page will serve as a living document. We encourage you to return to the Resource Page post-ABCS as a way to continue your learning and to use as part of reorientation.

Will recordings of the sessions be made available?

Participants who would like to receive any of the workshop recordings should reach out to our staff. The recordings are not intended to be a stand-in for participating in real-time, but we’re happy to provide recordings if it would help you return to the material. Recordings are for personal use only.


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 community. 

This year, we are focusing on civic engagement as an alternative to direct service. We’re still working out what that looks like for this summer, but service could include phone/text banking, canvassing, writing postcards encouraging folks to vote, and other types of advocacy. Additionally, multiple workshops will discuss other meaningful ways to serve communities.

Updated April 2022

Please reach out if you still have unanswered questions — we promise we don't bite!