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Marny Xiong, the late St. Paul school board chair who died of COVID at age 31, was celebrated Thursday with the dedication of a memorial library at the North End area school where she graduated 15 years ago.

Family members unveiled a mural by the artist Mwene Kajunju in the library at Washington Technology Magnet School, formerly Arlington High.

A blue curtain was pulled aside to reveal a smiling Xiong. A quote from her read: "To close the education gap for all students across the district, we must understand the intersections of poverty, race, and social inequity that impacts our public education ...."

Her mother hugged the artist's rendering.

During a memorial event later at the school, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said: "To me, she was very much a sister," a rare soul, he added, who represented not just the Hmong community, but also African Americans, Latinos, an entire district.

"I miss her leadership. I miss her smile. I miss her laugh," Carter said.

Xiong, the daughter of Hmong refugees, grew up on the East Side and was a product of St. Paul Public Schools. She graduated from University of Minnesota Duluth. When elected in 2017, she was an administrative manager at Hmong International Academy in Minneapolis.

She rose quickly to the school board chair's position. In the months just before her death in June 2020, Xiong worked closely with Superintendent Joe Gothard and others to help settle a teachers strike cut short by the then-looming pandemic.

Xiong was perhaps best known for giving voice to students, most notably those who came forward nearly four years ago to promote the idea of making ethnic studies a graduation requirement. Its eventual passage occurred last December. Gothard noted it would have been the final month of her term in office.

"I will be your champion," she told student leaders at the time.

Students were called upon by family members Thursday to read poems at the event.

Board Chairman Jim Vue, who in 2020 was appointed to fill Xiong's seat, read the board resolution written at that time in her memory. Gothard said Xiong's legacy would reach beyond the mural at the former Arlington High.

"Her work is everywhere in what we do," he said.