"Are you in band?" she asked.
Tyler's answer: yes. He played the oboe and the clarinet.
The two clicked.
Then there was Ashlyn, whose wide eyes and wider smile belied the pain underneath. She didn't have a mentor.
"Is there anybody who does not have a mentee?" one of the group leaders yelled over the din of chattering teens.
Rosie Smoots, the reluctant first-time mentor, raised her hand.
To an outsider, the two couldn't have been more different.
Smoots is black. Ashlyn is white.
Smoots lives in the nation's capital, while Ashlyn lives in rural North Pole, Alaska. Ashlyn wants to learn to moose hunt, while Smoots has only seen a moose on television.
But there was more: Smoots had never lost somebody close in combat; Ashlyn's father -- Sgt. 1st Class Johnathan McCain -- was killed in a roadside bomb blast in southern Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province.
What could they possibly have to say to each other?
The moment everything changed
After everyone is paired up, Jay tells the teens to identify themselves and let the group know who they're here to honor.
Ashlyn and Jordan shift uncomfortably in their chairs, while Tyler studies the faces in the room.
The most veteran of the group, 16-year-old Billy Ruocco of Newbury, Massachusetts, goes first. It's his seventh year, and he's here because of his father -- Marine Maj. John Ruocco.
He doesn't tell the group what most returning teens and mentors already know -- that his father took his own life in 2005 after coming home from Iraq. It was the same deployment that claimed the life of his fellow helicopter pilot, Lt. Col. David Greene -- the father of Billy's good friend, 16-year-old Wes Greene of Branford, Connecticut.
Wes is next. It's his fifth year at the camp. His father was killed in July 2004 when an insurgent got off a "one in a million shot" and hit the Cobra pilot in the head while he was providing aid to troops caught up in a firefight in Ramadi, Iraq.
Billy and Wes didn't know each other when their fathers flew together. It was a friendship borne of grief; it grew out of a passion for sports, jokes and girls.
They were united by other things, too. Neither had a father to teach them to drive, to shave. For that, they turned to male relatives, friends and the Internet.
Wes says he learned to tie a tie through instructions he found online, while Billy turned to his brother and friends for advice about girls.
In the hotel conference room, the boys' easy banter and self-confidence catch the attention of Ashlyn. She's envious.
When it's her turn, Ashlyn identifies herself and tells the group she's here because her dad was killed on November 13. She doesn't tell them the rest of the story, the one she will later share with Smoots.
It was a cold Sunday in Alaska when Ashlyn opened the front door to two men in uniform.
Her mom, Leanne, was upstairs on the computer, waiting for her husband to log on and chat from his Afghan outpost, when she caught a glimpse out the window of the two men heading toward their house.
She called to Ashlyn not to open the door. But it was too late. The teen swung the door open -- and knew instantly why the men were there.
"There's only one reason two men in uniform come to your door," Ashlyn says.
It was the death notification.
In that moment everything changed. There was her life before her dad was killed, and the one that came after.
"It's never going to be the same," she says, blinking back tears.
Ashlyn dreams of being an actress, maybe taking to the stage as Belle in the musical adaptation of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."