When Candy Yee sits in the stands at a USC sporting event, she is doing more than just watching students play a game; she is cheering on the students that she has come to consider her children.
“We’ll sit in the stands and we’ll see them playing like it’s my son or daughter out there,” Yee said. “It makes you proud of them. It makes you proud to be a Trojan.”
Yee and her husband, Jim, are regular fixtures at most home sporting events, but many students know them as the smiling faces, always ready with a cheerful greeting and some candy at the Heritage Hall information desk on Thursdays and Fridays.
They began volunteering at the information desk about six years ago, but Yee had already been a member of the Trojan Family for nearly 50 years. In 1964, she moved from Houston to Los Angeles to begin her undergraduate degree in elementary education at USC.
“It’s football that brought me in,” Yee said of her decision to attend USC over Columbia University, UC Berkeley and UCLA.
It was more than just football that made her stay. As a student, Yee was involved in a variety of student organizations, including the election committee, the Amazons (now the Helenes) and the Delta Phi sorority.
After graduating, she kept coming back, attending athletic events with her husband. She became a member of Town and Gown and the Trojan Guild. All three of her children were accepted to USC, and one of her daughters attended.
“My daughter was also in Helenes,” Yee said. “It was kind of an honor to have her in it.”
After retiring from 37 years as a teacher in Los Angeles, Yee heard about an opening for volunteers at the Heritage Hall information desk from a friend and she and her husband decided to volunteer.
“I missed being with children,” she said. “A lot of the athletes that come in are like [my] kids.”
Their official job is to help direct visitors and provide more information about USC, but when other volunteers suggested they give out candy, Trojan Candy was created.
“We put some [candy] up, and then we started doing more and more different things,” Yee said. “Certain kids came, and they liked certain things so we’d make sure we had it next time, and it’s just kind of grown.”
Now, students who stop by the information desk when the Yees are volunteering are treated to a variety of snacks, from a bag of chips to a candy bar. Most of their regular visitors are athletes, but many students and staff members also stop by for a hello and a snack.
“[I love] meeting anybody that goes through Heritage Hall,” Yee said. “I love to meet the people and talk to them. I’ve been known to run out after people because I recognize their faces.”
Yee said she knows about three-quarters of the football team, as well as many volleyball, basketball and track athletes. Redshirt sophomore De’Von Flournoy is one of many football players who began visiting Yee his freshman year.
“On Wednesdays, I look forward to Thursdays knowing that before my 2:15 meeting, snacks will be here,” Flournoy said. “It’s one of the many traditions here.”
Though free snacks might be the initial draw, Yee’s personality is the reason many students come back.
“She’s very approachable,” Flournoy said. “It’s not like she just sits here and says hi. She actually asks about how you’re doing and offers an endless supply of goodies.”
Yee and her husband pay for the snacks themselves, so they ask visitors for one simple favor — an interview and a photo for Yee’s blog, TrojanCandy.com.
“All over the years, when I came to ’SC, I had thought about being a journalist,” Yee said. “I had really wanted to be one of the reporters that interviews the athletes, but in 1964 women didn’t interview athletes.”
Yee now has the opportunity to fulfill her dream of interviewing athletes through her blog, which she and her husband began in 2008. The inspiration, however, was not originally to interview students, but to provide alternate sports coverage.
“I call [the Los Angeles Times] the UCLA Times,” she said. “They always say nice stuff about UCLA, but put down USC. It’s not fair.”
Yee uses her blog, Trojan Justice: The (UC)LA Times Watchdog, to critique the Los Angeles Times coverage, where she also reports on sporting events and interviews with Heritage Hall visitors.