By Ho Lian-Yi
THERE is always a reason for choosing a school over another. But to join for a cute guy?
That was what four young women did when they signed up for a private school here - after they found out that a former Manhunt winner is a postgraduate student there.
Miss Joey Lau, 22, who is from Vietnam, said: 'He's a model. He's very friendly. He gave me a good impression.'
Then she giggled.
Quite a pull, considering it costs $7,600 a year to take up a diploma course in hospitality in Shines Education Group's School D'Hospitality.
Miss Lau and her friends - Miss Dyna Peliandry, 20, from Indonesia, Miss Haley Haliun, 20, from Mongolia, and Miss Elaine Tan, 18, from Singapore - have signed up, never mind the cost.
So who is the magnet in question?
He is SMRT station manager Kassey Kalleichelven, 43, who is studying for his master's degree in leisure and tourism management, who also happens to be the winner of Senior Manhunt 2000.
The school said that several girls applied after he was featured on the school's website for winning a National Courtesy Award Transport Gold for exemplary acts of courtesy and kindness.
A Shines spokesman said the students signed up only after the school confirmed that he really was a student.
But the spokesman could not say how many such students there were because the school did not keep track of the enquiries.
The man in the centre of attention is naturally flattered.
Mr Kalleichelven, who is married to Mrs Singapore Globe 1999, said: 'I'm used to it, so really, I'm okay.
'It's very platonic. It's not like they're looking to have an affair.'
There were plenty of blushes and embarrassed pauses from Mr Kalleichelven's four admirers during the interview.
He was with them in the meeting room at the school's campus in Boon Keng during this interview.
Even the former Manhunt winner, who fearlessly stripped at an MRT station for a photoshoot in 2000, looked uncharacteristically awkward.
It was only after he excused himself that Miss Lau and her friends loosened up.
The students were, well, politically correct about how they admired him more for his achievements as a model and for his courtesy award than for his looks.
They also added they had joined the school after doing their own research. It was not solely because of a hot guy - he was just one of the reasons.
The school's spokesman said that the four look up to Mr Kalleichelven as a role model and that to retain students, what matters is the quality of its programmes.
Still, Miss Haliun admitted that she searched online for his pictures and stored them on her computer. She also has a newspaper cut-out of him.
The school uses his image for its advertisements. Mr Kalleichelven says he models for the school for free.
Miss Lau, who is interested in modelling, said she would wait to talk to him after school to get tips.
So did they tell their parents about him?
Miss Dyna exclaimed: 'Of course, we didn't. My parents wouldn't have allowed me to enrol in the school if I did.'
The schoolmates found out that they all joined the school partly because of Mr Kalleichelven during a chat.
Did it bring them closer?
Miss Tan said: 'I felt happy they are in the same boat as me.'
Do they have a crush on him?
Miss Haley said: 'Maybe.'
Miss Tan simply giggled.
This article was first published in The New Paper on 21 Sep, 2008.