Summer is here!

Kids finished up the school year Friday. But now what? Whether or not you've got camps and activities lined up for your kids; what's the best way to keep them busy and on track for the next school year?

We asked several AISD teachers their recommendations for kids this summer. Across the board, every teacher said reading the one thing kids should do this summer.

First- and fourth-grade teachers, Tiffany Hammer and Marsha Hammack, say parents can also take a look at "The Leader In Me" program the district is in the process of implementing. The summertime, they explain, is the perfect time to focus on #7, called sharpening the saw.

Hammack explained what that means.

"How can you focus on your neighborhood? How can you help somebody out in the summertime?" Hammack said. "That's that balancing the heart and the soul because we know when you do good for others it makes you feel better for yourself."

Click here to learn more about The Leader In Me.

ATEMS High School principal John Martinez gave us a lot of information on what he recommends middle and high school kids start doing during their summer vacations. Take a look at his advice:

Read & Play (every day!)
Go to the Abilene Public Library with your child and encourage them to check out a book and read more this summer. Whether you are in middle school or high school, it's never too late to become a reader! Consider going to the Grace Museum, Frontier Texas, or the Abilene Zoo. There's a lot to learn from these experiences. Encourage them to explore, to build, to create, to design, to evaluate, or to present. Through play and through reading can your child develop skills for success.

SAT/ACT Prep (middle/high school years)
It's never too early to begin prepping for the SAT and ACT. Purchase a study guide or check one out from the library. Looking over the test and taking practice tests helps students get over the anxiety that comes with these tests. Raising your test scores is critical to opening doors to major universities and scholarship opportunities. Abilene ISD hosts summer SAT prep sessions for high school students that's free; typically, these types of prep camps costs anywhere from $500 to $5000 in other cities.

Community Service/Volunteer (high school years)
We all want our children to be more selfless. This is a good way for our kids to get involved with their community and begin to think more about others than themselves. This is also a way to help universities distinguish between good applicants and great applicants. Look at your local food pantry programs or church outreach programs for volunteer opportunities.

Internship (junior/senior year)
Most students seek internships during the summer of their soon-to-be senior year. Don't leave it to the schools to find your child an internship. Parents must play an active role in helping them find meaningful internships. Reach out to community and business leaders to help make those connections for your child. Most businesses in Abilene are willing to help our kids. Sometimes all we have to do is just ask.

Summer Camp (middle/high school years)
Help your child find a camp that is engaging, challenging, fun, and different. There are many camps in our local community that students can attend. From Abilene ISD's technology camps to our local universities…there's a camp out there for your child. Don't let money be a deterrent. Many camps have scholarship dollars set aside to help all kids have access. (For example, Tarleton State is hosting a two week STEM camp for high school students in June. Kids get to stay in the dorms, eat on campus and get a first class experience studying engineering. And it's FREE.) Do whatever it takes to get your kids in a camp. Reach out to businesses. Ask for donations from neighbors. Don't be afraid to ask. Abilenians help each other out. If your child gets a donation, don't forget to have them write a thank you note or send a photo of the experience.

College Visits (middle/high school years)
If you're traveling this summer, take a side trip to a college or university in the area. If you're staying closer to home, visit one of our local universities or colleges. Many of the universities will provide families with a free meal and gladly show you around the campus. Having students visit colleges is one of the most beneficial ways of preparing your child for college.

Applying to College (summer Junior Year/Fall Senior Year)
The application process begins in earnest during the summer before their senior year. When students entered 9th grade, the opportunities for college were limitless. When students get to their senior year, the choices should be narrowed down to 3-5 universities. Although there are many factors that universities may consider, here are some of the major factors in being accepted (or denied): Grade Point Average, Class Rank, SAT/ACT scores, Community Service, Internships, Extra-Curricular activities, and quality of essays.