Floretta means flower. And now in her 50s, Watson feels like she’s hitting full bloom.
Others in her circle see it too. “She’s an encourager. She looks at the positive side of things. She loves people, and she loves God,” says co-worker Cheryl Pollard. “Oh, she will get you involved in something. She volunteers and she’ll pull you in and tug on you — but it’s always for a good cause and good reason.”
Before she even entered high school, Watson worked in admin support. “I worked in the summer youth program in the City of Detroit. We had a Business Office Education Club. I went to school in the mornings, worked in the afternoons, and one of the ladies took me under her wing, so I got attached to that.”
She had once aspired to be a teacher. Then a lawyer. Then a court reporter. And when she started at University of Phoenix the first time in the early 2000s, she thought healthcare was her future. In the end, she landed on an MBA because it gives her the most versatility.
Right out of high school, she did attend a university but came home to community college. Then marriage and children called quickly, and she put her education on pause. A short season later, she returned to school, this time with on-campus classes at University of Phoenix.
She was working as an administrative assistant by day, and taking classes at night, but her boys were growing up, and she didn’t want to miss it.
“My greatest joy was being there for my sons,” she says. “There wasn’t a Sunday family movie night, football game, fundraiser, concession stand shift or parent–teacher conference I missed.”
Years earlier, Watson and the boys’ father divorced, which made her even more determined to be involved in their lives, teaching them how to set good standards and have high goals. Then, when her youngest son graduated from high school, she realized that a high goal of her own had been in front of her for quite some time.
A college degree.
She made a decision. It was time to focus on her. She gathered her friends together for her 53rd birthday, telling them she had a big announcement.
“They all wondered if I were getting married,” she says. “I told them, ‘I’m going back to school.’ They all thought it was wonderful, and I was glad, because right then and there I said: ‘I won’t be available like I used to be. When you call, I won’t be able to talk as much as I used to. I can’t go out as much.’”
That proved true.
For four years, Watson put her head down — kind of like the long “flowering stretch” stage that occurs when a plant grows in height before it blooms. She declined many social invitations. It only took one night out with friends, which parlayed into lost points on one late assignment, for her to realize she didn’t want to go through that again.
First, Watson earned her associate degree. She flew to Phoenix and took her seat at commencement with the other associate degree conferees. But inside something kept stirring. She watched those with advanced degrees celebrate the accomplishment she wanted. She earned her bachelor’s. And then finally, with just one five-week break between her undergraduate and graduate programs, she went on to earn her Master of Business Administration in April 2023.
A grateful recipient of tuition assistance from her employer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Watson currently works there as an executive assistant and plans to grow into other roles. In fact, it was Pollard, her co-worker at BCBS, who kept coaxing her to go back to school.
“We would walk every day at lunch, and she kept saying, ‘Flo, you better get back in school.’ I wanted to say, ‘Would you leave me alone? This is not going to be a topic of discussion every time we walk.’
“And she would say, ‘Sis, if you don’t go to school, the time is going to get by you.’”