My name is Brandon Downey, and I attended ASMS from 1991-1993, graduating as part of the inaugural class. I grew up in a small fishing village on the southern tip of the Alabama coastline, and when I ASMS' very first recruiter came to my school, it was (institutional?) love at first site. I did everything within my then-14-year-old power to get in to a school which did not yet officially exist. When I did get in, the first thing I did was send Orson Scott Card a fan e-mail with the subject: "I'm going to battle school!" (These days, of course, maybe the more germane comparison is to Hogworts.... reading the Harry Potter books, I felt a strange empathy for Harry, since he viewed school as an escape, like I did.)
ASMS was far more than I'd ever dreamed -- I got to take my fill (and more) of courses I always wanted to, and learned a lot about being, well, an intellectual. For the first time, I got a real taste of what it was to love a place, a people, and at the same time have that bittersweet conflict where you realize that Authority is seldom as just, reasonable, or bright as the people subject to it. On the whole, though, I view the experience as being given a very profound gift -- my intellectual freedom.
I can't really speak to what the school is like today, of course. I'm sure it's as conflicting a mix as ever, but it'd please me to know that it's still doing some sort of good. I saw it again at our tenth year reunion a week ago, and it still made me happy to walk its halls one more time. I realized, something, too, as I walked the second floor of the boys' dorm: The smell was exactly the same as it was ten years before. And then I realized something else -- all the places I'd been in since then, whenever I'd smelled a place *like* it... they always smelled a little like home.