YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School is among seven schools nationwide selected to share a $6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, YouthBuild USA officials announced yesterday.

The unique schools provide high-school dropouts with a chance to earn their diplomas while learning construction-industry skills over the course of a year.

The school, on Broad Street near Thompson, will receive $190,000 per year for three years - a total of $570,000 - which will be used to help prepare 600 students to move on to postsecondary education and apprenticeships, officials said.

The $6 million grant is a part of a $69 million effort by the Gates Foundation to double the number of low-income students who earn college degrees or vocational credentials by age 26.

In YouthBuild USA's 226 schools nationwide, some 8,000 low-income students ages 16 to 24 work toward completing high school while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people. Since 1994, 76,000 students have built 17,000 homes. *